I’ve talked before about being in the political closet. The thing is, though that’s the easiest shorthand, it’s not the right shorthand, which made it worse.
The political closet would be right if one identified strongly with one party’s entire perceived agenda and were pretending to be the other. (The perceived is important and will come in later.)
My problem of course was that for most of that time, the party I identified most closely with was the Libertarians. But even with them I have issues – I won’t go into it too deeply, lest we get Josh going – but to be blunt, there was an assumption that pacifism could work and that if we don’t attack other people they won’t attack us, which didn’t fit in with my life experience or my reading of history.
Before 9/11 I sorta kinda convinced myself maybe this time it would work that way, but after 9/11, particularly as half the Libertarians in my region went bananas and started frothing at the mouth about how we’d brought it on ourselves by being mean to the poor brown people. (This is still one of my triggers, this ridiculous, disguised racism wherein Arabs – who, btw, would consider themselves white and nothing else – are considered sort of immature children and we have to take their sins onto ourselves. Kind of like if you pick on a two year old and he breaks the cup, it’s your fault not his. I say foreigners, whether they tan or not, are people too and capable of evil as well as good. I should know. I was born foreign.)
The other half went… Well… Look guys, let’s level up: I think drugs should be legalized because I think it would be easier to convince people not to take them (or to minimize the number of people who take them. Some always will, and I’m not their collective mother) if they’re out in the open. But there is a large cohort of Libertarians who make the legalization of drugs the be all-end all of their existence, not just because the war on drugs is ineffective, a statist power grab and distorting our polity – but because (perhaps because they’re enraged at these ills and kneejerk into the rest of it) illegal drugs are supposed to be good for everything including hair loss and ingrown toe nails.
Look – I know too much about the biological side of it to think most drugs – yes, including pot – are a net good. I’ve also seen too many of the results. Yes, all of them – including pot – have SOME beneficial effects. But, as with all medicine, including the legal, there are the other effects and counterindications.
Anyway, in our area, that’s all the people that remained capital L, active and registered Libertarians. Since all my email seemed to be peace demonstrations or pot taste-ins, I quietly dropped out of the active Libertarian thing – though not out of the registration until last year.
But I can’t say I fit the Republicans any better. For one, most Republicans don’t fit the perceived Republican party any better. I mean, of all the people I know who generally vote Republican, I think only two are fundamentalist Christians and even those have no issue with my gay characters or my other unorthodox positions.
Oh, and I don’t think (though some of them I know only on line, and who cares) any of them live in a trailer park, and only one (rather obvious and well known) is a billionaire, and our correspondence is at best irregular due to his being a very busy man. (I wish he were one of you lot who read here. Then he might, in an unconsidered moment, hit the kitty for a hundred thousand or so, which at the moment would relieve me of worry over husband’s job enough to write without issue. But he’s not. And I think even for billionaires, you don’t just throw that kind of money around – which is just too bad.)
I’ve met some caricature republicans while working on the campaigns – one of them almost made me leave the office – but they were so stereotypical, and so unlike any real Republicans I know, that now I wonder if they were moles. (Like the crazy guy who thought he could camouflage as republican by having a chic-fillet bag with him.)
But if you turn to the “real republicans who govern”, I still don’t fit in with them very well (they by and large don’t fit in with base too well) because ultimately they are power brokers and power dealers, and their idea of government is to continue expanding the Federal power only not in the same directions as the Democrats.
As a friend of mine put it on FB, one side wants to give other countries vast subsidies so they’ll like us, and the other side sends over our young men and women to protect other countries, so they have the money to run their social programs and ignore their defense.
Yes, I do understand the necessity of keeping the lanes of commerce open – I’m not a total lack wit – but part of me thinks if we’re going to protect them, they should pay, not the other way around. Then maybe they would perceive the benefit of what we’re doing, instead of resenting us like teens still living in mommy and dad’s house. (On the other hand – I told you I wasn’t a lack wit – I am aware that from “we pay for the armies” to Empire and Tribute (which is a great name for a book) is a series of not very painful steps over a century or so. Humans aren’t perfect and life is full of these little tradeoffs and things being what they are, a hundred years of our continued existence sound like to dream the impossible dream.)
So… So I settle for voting for those people who will grow the deficit SLOWER and who stick their noses in what I eat, what I wear and how many kids I wish to have LESS. The fact that they’re despised by the plutocrats in the press is a plus, because it means when they’re in power the press actually DO hound them and bark at their heels, as opposed to rolling over and asking to tummy rubs after Benghazi, fast and furious, and the executive orders that are slowly bringing SOPA and PIPA into effect (at the command of the vast entertainment corporations.) Yes, I know that’s – sort of – the gateway to hell and that it’s how we got when we are, but societies and states are slow and cumbersome to turn around and the tech is going our way, taking away the power of schools and vast media operations, and putting it in individual hands. We need another generation or two and then we’ll be a sufficient majority. (We’ll never be an overwhelming majority. A lot of people ALWAYS prefer security over liberty, though I grant you fewer of them in America than anywhere else.)
What I have been trying to avoid is the headlong RUSH into the abyss that might stop the tech advance BEFORE we can raise another generation, with different values. Ah well. To dream the impossible dream.
So, you see how complex my political positions are. What is more, they change, in response to events, in response to new knowledge from history, in response to a whole bunch of things.
You’d think this was exactly the type of mind you’d want in someone who writes science fiction (or even fantasy) and who is therefore – by professional requirement – likely to build challenging societies, with loopholes, contradictions and points of conflict. Right?
What the publishing establishment I entered in 1999 (remember I didn’t get into Baen until 2004) wanted only one thing: really articulate, literate parrots who would expound the status quo of the “intelligentsia” (and that btw, as caricatured as their idea of “Republicans.”) and join their voices to the chorus of all these things everybody knows (which just ain’t so) like “If there were no men, there would be no war.” “To be truly liberated a woman must be a lesbian.” “Human extinction is the only way to change the Earth.” And my ever-favorite “We must not go to space, because we haven’t yet learned to take care of the Earth.” (As though humanity were MEANT to be some sort of gardeners or Earth were sentient.) There are others, of course, including the ever fertile chestnut that if someone is rich he/she stole it from someone or his/her ancestors did.
I couldn’t hack it. Tried. You see, I had this idea that if only we got one or two more generations, we’d need people capable of explaining liberty to those generations, so there COULD be a rebirth, eventually. Heinlein did a capital job, but he’s not around now, and science fiction AGES. (My kids still loved Heinlein, but let’s admit it, right now it’s parallel history and it’s lost that veneer of “this is the future.” Of course, it’s possible that veneer was part of mid twenty century culture and can’t be brought back.)
So my idea was to stealth it, till I got really big, and then from there to slowly uncloak and start talking about the important stuff.
Ah… well… Let’s say that I miscalculated on several counts. First, I might lack the necessary talent/proficiency. (I keep reading in books and hearing my colleagues say that at heart we each know exactly how good we are, but if that’s true I’m even more of an oddity than I thought. I have no clue how good I am. I like some of my books, it’s all I can tell you – even though it might be bad manners.) Second, by the time I entered publishing, you had to be especially favored to even survive with the same name past three books – and you had to have impeccable political pedigree (usually supported by who you know, what schools you attended, etc) and usually other stuff like personal beauty or charisma (I’m not bad, but I’m female and I broke in after 30) to be pushed to bestseller. And the “push” was in the house’s control. (Again, I’m not talking about Baen, who has to grow bestsellers the old fashioned way. And does, one of the reasons the other houses hate it.) And THIRD – I couldn’t do it. I didn’t realize how bad I was at it. No, seriously, I didn’t. I used to be good at it, or else, I wouldn’t have a degree in Languages and Literature from an European university. But I’ve gone back and read some of my books that didn’t sell, and uh… there is this certain lack of confidence in authority and established credentials that keeps leaking through… I guess having got out of school and spent a few years alone with my own thoughts, I was too iconoclastic to hide ALL of it.
I know people who are stealthing it, some much better than others, all better than I do. (And I take my hat off to them.)
And I know people who are stealthing it in other fields, at least two of whom read this blog and comment under pen names, and one of whom I told I don’t want to know his/her real name. I don’t want to risk letting it slip.
I admire their ability to do this, and I get very upset when – often – some blog or some commenter on a blog starts saying that they’re cowards for not confronting their family/colleagues/boss with their real political opinions.
Me? I think more is won by planting seeds. If Heinlein hadn’t got to me with fiction, I might very well have ended up in the politically correct chorus. And he got to me because no one in Portugal had thought of isolating minds from him by accusing him of being homophobic, or xenophobic, or misogynist or whatever. Yes, at the age of eleven or so, if I’d been primed, I’d have seen that in the books and not read them. I’m sure I – at least in my public identity – have managed to land myself on several “do not read” lists.
On the other hand… on the other hand…
On the other hand, I think – or at least, after dealing with the failure of my stealthing attempt I tell myself that – I too might have a place in the ranks, and my position too can be useful.
First of all, because I’ve been on both sides of this and therefore can tell you the problem with the stealth position. I’m one of very few people who has done this – most others are actual converts. The problem with the stealth position is the problem of double agents. You start out by pretending to be something you’re not, but if you’re good enough at it, it starts leaking into your thought and your identity. (This is part of being human and a social creature.) I don’t mean you start thinking like them, but parts of the shibboleths of the dominant culture will start affecting your thinking. Mostly the prejudices. You’ll start feeling, for instance, anyone who defends the free market must be greedy, and flinching a little at unabashed defense of personal liberty. This never happened to me personally. I have seen it happen, until the person is completely captured by the other side and doesn’t even know it. You’ll find them saying things like “Well, I’m a republican, but republicans are soooo anti-woman. They don’t see only women can bring peace to the world.”
At that point if you’re another of the stealthers, and if this person was a friend (discovering other stealthers used to be a thing. Sometimes I thought we should have a hanky code.) you salute a fallen comrade, route around the leak and move on.
I – and others – of the stealthers went the other way, though. And it’s just as bad. I got to the point where all these people that I knew, objectively were actually decent, good people – or at least not bad – but just didn’t think or challenge the dominant culture (either from cowardice or desire to fit in) were Evil with a capital E.
I had “friends” in the field, but none of them could be real friends, because none of them could see the real me, and I didn’t like the “them” they presented. I started hating people for their opinions, even when I knew those opinions were just the result of their growing up in a place and time and wanting to fit in.
And that is poison to the soul, particularly when you consider that I am, at heart, very gregarious and spent my formative years in a “live in your extended family’s pockets” culture (the fact I ever left probably means I am at heart rather insane, anyway.)
In the first route, you become a prisoner of the status quo. In the second, though, it slowly makes you bitter and encased in a loneliness nothing can break.
I dedicated A Few Good men To Glenn (of Instapundit) because without the blogs, without knowing there were other people out there like me – with whom I might not agree on EVERYTHING, but with whom I agreed that political direction and beliefs were something to be examined and discussed in the light of history – were all that kept me – marginally – sane in the ten years of deep-cover.
It is still hard, sometimes, for me to remember that say, people who believe we should have the minimum wage are not CONSCIOUS Marxists. Yes, they do implicitly assume that if a benevolent (where they find that, is beyond me, it being like everything else, a human construction and therefore at best mixed) government doesn’t watch over businessmen, businessmen will – of course – exploit their fellow human (who is always defenseless, poor muggings, like 19th century peasants) beyond all reason. BUT they don’t realize their thoughts have been infiltrated. Depending on how annoyed I am that day, I’m likely to unload with both barrels before I pull back and think that “oh, yeah. Someone who has never even thought about this and for whom it is an “of course.”” These people are different from the hard-core vile progs and might or might not be winnable back to sanity. Those we can win back must be won, because if we can survive this, we’ll need all hands on deck. But right now I’m more likely to blast them with the burner. My ability to distinguish between red and deep pink is gone.
It can’t be helped, at least for now. It’s a war wound, and touching it brings a reflex response. It might get better – supposing we survive (To Dream The Impossible Dream) over the decades. It might not. You pick your course, you place your bet, you take your lumps. None of us is perfect or unscarred.
Worse, though, it was affecting my writing. I’d got in the habit of never writing about anything I REALLY cared about and was well on my way to learning to write about nothing, which is –of course – the road to grey goo. (It’s paved with awards I hear, not that I ever saw one of those awards.)
I came out of the political closet because I dimly perceived that to stay in it, I’d lose myself. If my occasional flailing around with how we got here and what it all means helps some of my still-stealthed comrades, in writing or other professions almost entirely taken over by vile-progs then it’s all worth it.
I will continue to run ultra-secret indie-only pen names who stealth. Who knows? Those might get through some of the “never thought” people.
Meanwhile I’m glad to be out of the political closet, sorry I couldn’t stick the stealthing, wondering if anyone can without in one way or another losing their inner selves – and profoundly grieved we live in a time where such conformity of thought is demanded by the establishment, even of people who are supposed to be creative. I’m grieved that you’re not just required to generally believe in their principles (no, I don’t believe that only government is impartial and benign and they can’t make me. But I could allow that sometimes – rarely – government isn’t all wrong) or agree with them on some things (I am, for instance, for the legalization of drugs, among other things – even if my reasons are different from most of those the vile progs tout) BUT you’re required to loudly promote and proclaim the party line, even when it changes.
Life is what it is. You live in the times you live in. You do the best you can with it.
To my stealthed colleagues, I salute you. To those who have fallen, I thank you for your service and I’m sorry we lost you. To those who never thought of being stealthed, I assume you knew yourselves best, and are doing the best you can.
Courage. It might seem like we’re dreaming the impossible dream, but it’s always darkest before dawn, and a friend once told me that the other side always crows victory the loudest when they know they’re losing. There are signs, hard to read because so many of us are stealthing, that it might not yet be to late to turn this thing around.
Courage – return to your positions and do your best. And I’ll do mine. I’ll stand here and do my poor best. And hope it serves something.