Hey, there’s an election coming up!
In early June, I decided that I wanted to watch the video for Tom Petty’s Don’t Come Around Here No More on YouTube. Instead, when I went to the official version of the video, I got to watch a commercial approved by President Barack Obama telling me how the universe would implode if Mitt Romney were elected President.
In case you didn’t know, there’s a Presidential election this year. If you didn’t know, you will. Especially in battleground states like, ummm, Florida, land of the hanging chad. (As an aside, do you believe that was twelve years ago?)
I certainly have my ideas about the best qualified nominee to be President, but that’s not a topic for this venue. (And Master Yoda’s not a US citizen.) But it’s a topic that’s going to generate discussion, passion, annoyance, loyalty, and the dissolution of relationship between now and the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
As a writer, what do you do?
In the time this blog’s been published, my thoughts have moved from “you’re probably going to hork off half your readers if you come out strong politically” to “if you censor yourself on politics, what other subtle forms of censorship will you apply, and how will your writing suffer?”
Both extremes probably hold value, in their place. On the one hand, I know people who won’t listen to The Dixie Chicks or watch a Jane Fonda movie because of politics, who got rid of their Ted Nugent albums and refuse to watch anything with Tom Selleck. Personally, I think that’s silly. On Golden Pond is a wonderful movie. And Magnum, PI is, well…its perfection is self-evident.
Many of the writers I know differ politically from me. And to be honest, it’s more fun that way. If I got to know them better, we could probably talk about politics without calling each other knuckle-dragging fascist bastards or lily-livered spineless surrender monkeys. (And for the record, I’m not a fascist and my arms aren’t long enough to for my knuckles to touch the ground.)
As a writer, I think the ability to try to see things through other peoples’ eyes is vital to my success. I don’t necessarily need to agree with your stances on single-payer healthcare or the Stand Your Ground law, but I should be able to understand them, and to step into your viewpoint without condemning you for it.
Bastardhood is not a function of political stance. There are awesome wonderful Communists, Socialists, Third-Way Democrats, Republicans in Name Only (RINOs), Rockefeller Republicans, and Tea Partiers. An there are schmucks in each of those classifications, too.
The trick is to maintain your intellectual authenticity while being able to understand what the people you disagree with are thinking, and do so without turning them into THEM.
Mastering that trick can help you create three-dimensional, living, breathing characters, even if you disagree with them.