A FICTION WRITER LOOKS AT CHARLOTTESVILLE

A FICTION WRITER LOOKS AT CHARLOTTESVILLE

     There is only one way of describing what just took place in Charlottesville, Virginia: a far right, racist and fascist assault on America, facilitated and made possible by the person who currently occupies the White House.

     This is not a political blog. I have strong political opinions and regularly state them on Facebook and other venues and for several years hosted a political blog. This post is  the viewpoint of a fiction writer who chronicles life by placing people and events in fictional settings. Writers, like other artists, dig beneath the surface, aiming to reach that special place where soul, spirit and passion meet reality. Whatever the genre, this is what good writers and artists of all type strive to achieve. So it should come as no surprise that artists are especially tuned and sensitive to the type of violent, deranged hatred we saw on display this weekend in Virginia.

     Let’s not deny what really took place. This was not just a gathering of far right harmless nuts spouting off like your crazy Uncle Harry at Thanksgiving. These are hard core violent fascists who seek to replace America’s tolerant society ruled by the Constitution with a carbon copy of Nazi Germany. They are willing and in fact eager to use violence to achieve these ends.

     The most frightening aspect of this has been the facilitation and support the violent racists have received from Donald Trump. He shoulders most of the blame by legitimizing hate.

     For proof we don’t need to go back to all the racist and antisemitic statements and actions made during his campaign. Just in the past week alone he has declared that the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division would change its focus from protecting minorities against discrimination to looking for fake cases of anti-white bias. In that same week he publicly encouraged police to use illegal violence against anyone they arrested, proposed an immigration bill that would curtail immigration of his many disfavored minorities, and said he would withdraw protections for LBGT people under Obamacare.

     His refusal to specifically condemn neo-Nazis and the KKK in Charlottesville and his false equivalency between those and other groups simply highlights that Trump the Traitor is a racist who promotes hatred and violence. His treason is not just his collusion with Russian interference with the election; he has also betrayed our Constitution and the rule of law.

     So what is the role of fiction writers and other artists in the face of such reprehensible actions by the President and his extremist supporters?

     First, we should speak out. Artists, even the least known among us (certainly fits this one) have people who view their art and listen to them. Artists are supposed to know how to communicate and stimulate people to think.

     It’s not necessary to write specifically political pieces, although if that is one’s bent, they should do so. Fiction writers can move readers by the way they portray people, and the mood they create.

     It is especially important  in these troubled times that we read fiction by the widest possible range of authors, including minority voices that have for too long been excluded by the publishing mafia. The availability of self published on-line work is a wonderful tool to find voices other than the narrow range the publishing industry thinks we should hear.

     Authors who feel the call should not hesitate to write imaginative works addressing the horrors we seek to avoid. My most recently published story, available for free on this blog, deals with these issues.

     Much of my fiction addresses being Jewish in America, and this necessarily entails addressing antisemitism and bigotry. You don’t have to be Jewish to write about these themes, and by the same token, white fiction writers should not be afraid to venture into new territory and write about the horrors inflicted on others. The world would benefit by having a multiplicity of voices expressing these themes in their own unique way, so long as the effected groups are among those voices.

     I am not one who rails against “cultural appropriation” every time a white person writes about a person of color; I have no problem when a non-Jew writes about the Holocaust or any other aspect of the Jewish experience. The question should always be whether it is good writing, whether it is honest, whether it moves the reader. If the writing is done merely for commercial exploitation or to copy someone else, that’s a different story, but every fiction writer worth their salt should be able to find some way to identify with and bring to life characters who are not the same as themselves.

     That’s the technical side of writing, the “inside baseball” of the craft. Aside from fiction, writers can use their talents to communicate their feelings in many ways. Activism can take the form of writing letters, articles, using our literary skills to produce political materials that reflect our deepest feelings.

     I’m not even calling for any particular ideology. One does not have to hold any one particular political stance to be appalled by racism, violence and Trumpism. Some of the most moving voices decrying these abhorrent beliefs come from very conservative people. Utah Senator Orin Hatch, a very conservative-but very honorable Senator- (with whom I rarely agree) spoke most movingly against Trumps’s effective condoning of the racist violence when he said,  “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

     I’m going to make it a point in the next few weeks to work on a short story that addresses these issues. It does not have to be an obviously political piece, or a roman a clef depiction of actual events; it just has to make readers feel the pain of the victims of hatred and the visceral and frightening anger emanating from the racists. If writers want to explain how such hatred emanates, that’s also fine, if it helps us  understand the mindset of those who embrace evil, even it it creates some empathy for them.

     Former President Obama has stated, citing Nelson Mandela,  no child is ever born hating people just because they are of a different color (add religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender); they have to be taught to hate and we can teach them to change and not hate. Writers and other artists are not compelled to take on this role, but those  do will be remembered long after the haters are forgotten.

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