The Political Is Personal

I keep running into people who say that you should never, ever, ever mention your politics, because you’ll lose fans.  I will grant you this is true, and when it comes to someone bringing their politics into a casual social occasion – say a dinner or a con party – particularly if they come completely from the “Uh?” side I’d say that’s true.

If politics is a sort of Tourette’s to you and you find the need to interject, in a conversation about how good the wings are or how tasty the peanuts “It reminds me of the house budget resolution” and then a crass comment that assumes everyone is on your side in this – let it be.  You will lose readers.  Of course, in my case the reason you will lose me is not because I agree or disagree with your politics, but because I dislike violations of social spaces and am appalled at your lack of social empathy in not figuring out in a group of ten/twenty strangers, some will disagree with you either completely or “yes but” type disagreement.

Of course there are a ton of ways you can go wrong after going wrong that way.  For instance there’s the fact you’re repeating some media-created trope which has been exploded a million times by anyone who follows the subject more closely.  Or the fact that – worse – you’re repeating some comedians joke in the belief it’s a factual analysis.

Note that all of these are first and foremost a violation of social decorum.  But they also betray a certain type of mind that goes something like “all right thinking people agree with me” or even “I have to say this so they’ll know I’m one of the good people.”  The idea of someone smart enough to make a living through ideas disagreeing with the person never occurs to these people.

Hence, when faced with this type of violation, I’ll be predisposed to not read them, because I expect a certain trend of conventional thinking and little originality.

Mind you, this is just an inclination not to read them.  I.e., faced with shelves and shelves of new authors to try, I will avoid this one on the assumption that I’ll enjoy him/her less than the others.  OTOH I have a lousy memory for names so unless you really get under my skin, sooner or later I’ll pick you up and I might even like your reading.

The amazing thing is that I have met more people who write with their hindbrain and are brilliant while being public life dolts than I care to mention. This is both a good thing and a humbling thing. When you do anything artistic and I have to reluctantly include writing, because I do other stuff also, and I know the process is similar, as hard as it is to admit, it must be accepted that it’s not quite under your control. Your subconscious can be way smarter than you allow yourself to be – or at least more plugged in.  We had an acronym for this back in the eighties when it was a thing for artists to devote paeans to the Soviet Union and berate the US because they’d been given the VIP tour and made to feel like important opinion makers in the Sov Union: BAPI – brilliant artist.  Political idiot.  Most singers fell under this category.

I never had the illusion that I could cut loose at any party and have everyone agree with me.  This is because my opinions are idiosyncratic and arrived at one by one, sometimes painfully.  There are things I’d really prefer to believe, because I’d sleep better at night – such as that government agencies devoted to causes I approve of would never be corrupt – but though I approve of many things, like better education, I can guarantee any efforts made by government to improve it, like a follows b, will mean that it spirals down the drain harder and faster because the person in desk A is building a fiefdom on the current regulations, and the person in desk C won’t let go of them And the person in desk B starts empire building on the new ones.  And in the end what you have is soup.

So I adhere to the Heinlein dictum that only a fool or a sadist tells the absolute truth at a social occasion.  Social occasions are for the purpose of socializing.  Unless you’re at a cocktail party thrown by your social action group, or you’re among friends whose opinions you know, you should assume that you can give offense with an ill considered jest.  Heck, even friends whose opinions you know might not agree with you in everything.  They just might never have rammed it down your throat at social occasions.  You shouldn’t assume – particularly if one political opinion is prevalent among those who have power over your career (say, colleges) – that just because someone gives you a sickly smile and doesn’t say anything they agree with you.  Maybe you just made the spicy wings curdle in their stomach and they want to beat you upside the head with the clue by four, but they’re too polite to mention it.  Or they want to make sure there’s money when baby got to have shoes.

I’ve managed to be offended by what I call “whole politics buyers” on both sides of the isle, though in professional occasions mostly by the left. On personal occasions sometimes by the right. And on both occasions, I started avoiding the venue because I couldn’t talk and I didn’t want to be discomfited.

Then there’s the “don’t let it go.”  I lost a friendship I valued and of some years standing because this person had recently become a political activist.  She would initiate political discussions out of the blue, repeating talking points on topics in which sometimes I knew a lot more than her, but worse, on topics where no one sane could take her seriously.  Let’s put it this way – if she’d been on the right, she’d have been screaming at me that any minute the black helicopters and Soros-funded mercenaries were going to come and take half the population to FEMA camps.  The logistics didn’t work, the economics were cacked, and these were rumors that, in a form or another had been around since the seventies, and were just as loony.

I’d known, of course, through the ten years of our friendship, that we didn’t see eye to eye on most things.  This was okay, because our friendship was funded on furniture refinishing, carpentry and writing.  And on that level we agreed on most things.  I highly disapproved of some of her opinions, but she’d proven resistant to change (you all know this.  You point the facts, they agree with you.  But next time it comes around their opinion has reset to where it was to begin with.)  And what the heck I didn’t want to marry her – just to talk a couple of times a month and go to lumberyards/writers groups together.

Only suddenly she amped up her “activism” and suddenly she was full of talking points and wanted me to listen to them.

Now, I had engaged her in the past in philosophical discussions and others, but never political.  And when she started politics, I made a joke and changed the subject.

Only now it didn’t work.  She’d tell me I was disrespecting her for not listening to what she had to say.  The “friendship” became an endurance test and I allowed it to lapse.

Which again is a lack of social decorum and a lack of understanding of time and place.  Also, a lack of listening on ONE part.  If she had been at all aware of facial expressions – as I said, I’ve discovered recently that I’m glass-fronted – she would have known that I didn’t agree with her in most things and that it was a disagreement of the sort she wasn’t likely to bridge.  (I did tell her that what she told me was illogical and why, but she just kept on shouting talking points – it wasn’t a dialogue.)  And if she valued our friendship she would have avoided those topics.

I still have any number of friends who disagree with me in varying degrees.  In fact, if I had any who agreed with me completely I’d be confused, since most of my friends are as much independent cusses as I am.

But we either discuss the point and find out that our disagreement is of degree, not kind (or sometimes of words, not real) or we realize that for whatever reason our views of the world differ in ONE thing – and we agree not to talk about that one thing.  Though for close friends, we sometimes tease each other about it!

So – why don’t I keep politics out of this blog?

Because I found it impossible.  If I’m going to talk about things about which I care deeply, I will impinge on the political.  Not because as it was common in the seventies “The personal is political” but because the side of the equation that views every facet of human life as likely to be improved by government regulation also tends to consider anything political.  Over the years I’ve found that saying something like “I believe that public schools are doing a serious disservice to children” is political – even though it’s very personal and I experienced it.  Or “I believe men get the wrong end of the stick in law and society these days” – political.  Or “I like the old fashioned incandescent lightbulbs best” – political.  Or “Low flush toilets are really multiple flush toilets” – political.  Or “Animals are cute and tasty with mustard” – political.  Or…

Given that, it’s impossible for me to have a blog without being political.  Why?  Because it’s impossible for me to have a blog without revealing something of how I think and feel, and if one side is determined to control how you think and feel, that makes blogging impossible.

Am I worried this will lose me readers?  Meh.  The sort of people who think in shouted slogans would probably have a heart attack at my books, or quit reading them within ten pages.  And the ones who actually think about what they believe, even if, like me, they have the sort of political opinions that would get kicked out – with force – out of anything but a group of radical libertarians (where they would get shouted down by twenty discordant opinions but PROBABLY not kicked out, because they couldn’t organize enough collective action to kick me out) will roll their eyes at some of what I say, but will read my books for my books.  They might avoid my blog, but they’ll enjoy my stories – even when a character now and then acts in a way that makes them urk – because the rest appeals to them.

None of the writers of the past were apolitical by our definition of political.  Jane Austen had people eat meat.  She had strong opinions on marriage, finances and even the equality of man.  If she’d lived in our times, some people would want to set her on fire.  And Shakespeare, within the confines of a society that had political censorship was more free to think and create than we are.  So long as he bowed obeisance towards the Tudors, he could have his women characters marry or not marry, sleep around or not, disobey their parents, have children, all without someone getting in his face and screaming “The personal is political.”

And that’s because the personal is not political.  Or it shouldn’t be.  If you live in a society where the government thinks it has an overriding interest in whether you use incandescent or fluorescent light, the government is out of order.

The only system of belief that should intrude into every act of your life and how you do it is religion – and that should be a matter of individual choice.

Government is a creation of collective humanity, and I have yet to see a group of humans – outside specific situation like the army – know what each human should do best to his own advantage than the individual himself.

Just because an individual craves power over others it makes him neither smarter nor better informed about those others than he was before.  The tendency to consider political leaders “very smart” is one of the most gaggingly stupid trends of modern life.  Most politicians might be “socially smart” – i.e. know how to engage people – but that talent is rarely if ever united to a talent for administration or indeed a talent for anything else.  Just like writers can be brilliant and total pants-on-head political idiots because the only thing that TRULY interests them is writing, and therefore they acquire their politics from the “Whole politics store.”

Now if – like me, and it is a form of deformity – you were bit by politics early and you have a sort of allergic reaction that keeps you interested in politics to make sure they don’t bite again, because there’s no epi-pen against stupid revolutions for instance, your politics will leak into your stories.

I try very hard not to make politics the point of my stories, though.  Sometimes my characters have political opinions of their own, too, and express them loudly.  It doesn’t mean I agree with them, and I try to show that by the events in the book.  (This is very much a thing in Through Fire.)

However I’ve decided to let politics hang out.  First, because my keeping them secret was always a forlorn hope.  Apparently, as I said, my face shows all my thoughts.  Second, because I spent years hiding and pretending to politics I didn’t believe in, and it gave me ulcers, made my hair fall out, and made it impossible to sleep at night.  I’d reached the point I was going to stop it anyway, and Baen and indie just made it easy.  Third, because when I don’t speak, or worse pretend to agree with positions that are morally repulsive to me, I’m lending credence to the idea that “All good people think this way.”

So, I say what I believe in this blog.  (Forgive me, Heinlein for I am opinionated.)  And if my political or any other opinions leak out in my books and fall outside the approved norm, too bad, so sad.  If you’re the sort of person who reads for a recitation of cant, (or Kant) you have an embarrassment of offerings and probably would never get to me anyway.

But if you’re my friend and disagree with me, you need never be afraid I’ll ambush you at a cocktail party with “You know, it’s amazing that the red sauce for these wings works, because communism never does, ar ar ar ar ar.”

Because that’s neither the time, nor the place.  And contrary to what the bien pensant would have us think, sometimes the political is personal.

208 thoughts on “The Political Is Personal

  1. My father hooked me on Heinlein when I was just a sprout. All of his books are political. The odd thing is that I enjoyed them thoroughly at every decade of my life, even while I was careening wildly through a succession of different political philosophies.

      1. True, but it’s still surprising. He’s often pretty in-your-face with his politics, and yet I enjoyed him when I agreed and when I didn’t. I don’t run across that very often. I suspect it may be that, even when I disagreed, he appealed to the basic libertarian in me, which was a constant thread in his thought and may underlie a lot of political changes in myself even as my superficial political preferences changed. Also, despite his rebelliousness, he had an unshakeable sense of duty and never expected me to identify with a protagonist who was a weak or callous shirker.

        1. Heinlein’s sense of duty is what confuses soooo many people. “HE’S MILITARISTIC!!!!” No, he just happens to have thought there are things bigger than an individual, even as he thought the individual deserved consideration above concepts like “the collective”. Yes, it’s a contradiction, but he was as human as the rest of us.

          Besides, we should be thankful there are individuals willing to sacrifice themselves to the ideal of a society organized FOR the individual, as confusing as the concept may be.

          1. I think Heinlein is one of the few people to have ever been accused of being a fascist *and* a hippy within the span of a single decade.

            1. I think Heinlein is one of the few people to have ever been accused of being a fascist *and* a hippy within the span of a single decade.

              Don’t know about accusations, but most of the hippies when I was growing up were pretty blessed fascist– just wanted the totalitarian Great Leader to agree with them.

              1. Ah, but they always believed they were the only true freedom-lovers. And beliefs totally trump reality, don’t you know? 😉

          2. I’m not so sure that those are contradictory. A lot of us believe that the rights of the individual stem from something larger than the individual. We just don’t believe that the collective is big enough to properly grant or withhold those rights, especially when some supposed representative of the collective arrogates that function to himself. Within the right framework, self-sacrifice for a greater good is not contradictory to individual liberty, so long as it is the individual making the choice.

            1. We just don’t believe that the collective is both intelligent and wise enough to properly grant or withhold those rights, especially when some supposed representative of the collective arrogates that function to himself.

              There, fixored it for you.

            2. John, I come at that from the opposite direction but I believe much the same (self sacrifice, individual choice). Only I think the collective as an entity really doesn’t exist as it’s usually described, because it is only made up of individuals. It is because these individuals believe in the social contract (for lack of a better term) that individual rights and freedoms *matter* and should not be messed with.

              Any self sacrificing I’ve seen over the years has been of a much more personal nature, in the main. Parents give up much for their children, freely, at least if they are worthy of the name. Soldiers for their fellow citizens. Once upon a time, I hear elected officials were expected to do the same… Each one, a choice.

              I don’t think the rights of the individual don’t derive from anything larger than God, or common sense- “We hold these truths to be *self evident,* that all men are created equal,” etc. Since they are not granted by any government or institution, they cannot be summarily taken away.

              Okay, I grant you the RKBA crowd has some legitimate beef with the implementation here, but I’ve always understood it the be it was all the individual people that granted powers to the something larger, not the other way around.

              Perhaps I mistook your meaning and I’m arguing over nothing here, if so disregard my blatherings of the moment. *grin*

            3. Paraphrased from (I think) Farmer in the Sky:

              “Yes, son, there are some adjustments that can be done to the drive unit, if something goes wrong. If this becomes necessary, the Chief Engineer will go in there and make them. And then his Second will become the new Chief Engineer.”

        2. There’s something about his writing that lets me at least roll my eyes when he’s being silly, and get on with the story.

          1. It’s in the story. It’s not the be-all-end-all of the story. Unlike some . . . *glares at library shelf of books by author I used to like*

  2. Part of the problem of “modern politics” IMO is that it doesn’t seem to be possible to “disagree without being disagreeable”. And yes, I fall short (at times) in that regard.

    Also, you commented that “only religion should intrude into every act of your life and how you do” and I agree.

    The problem is that for many people, their politics *is* their religion. [Sad Smile]

    1. Not only that, but the worst of them are zealots who feel compelled to attack anyone not of their religion. And by that I do not mean simple disagreement, but ad hominem personal attacks against any and all who dare to express a counter opinion.

      1. Ayup. I’ve been there and done that. And what can you do at that point? You fire back, you’re no better than the zealot. You let it stand, and people start to believe the ad hominems. Alinskyism (much as I hate to admit it) is a dirty trick that people use because it works.

    2. Another part of the problem–the most important, I believe–is that thanks to Progressivism politics intrudes into every sphere of life. A century ago government policy touched our lives only rarely and in only a limited number of ways, and thus a political disagreement with a neighbor could seem somewhat abstract, something a bit remote with little direct effect on our daily lives. But now government is everywhere, and virtually every political issue directly impinges on the lives of ordinary people, and in such circumstances there is nothing abstract about disagreement. My liberal friends want to use the power of the state to outlaw my politically incorrect thoughts. It’s hard for me to view such an agenda with equanimity (while they see my resistance as proof that I am horribly dangerous.) They want to tax me into poverty (“equality”) in order to fund their deranged schemes of redistribution and universal welfare. I naturally resent their ambitions, especially after a lifetime of hard work in which I refrained from spending money on recreation in favor of saving for retirement. They, on the other hand, see my hard work and frugality as a symptom of the evil Puritan Worth Ethic–I should have been like them and gone to science fiction conventions every weekend and hopped over to Europe every chance I got. What’s worse, my unwillingness to surrender what I have shows that I am a cold-hearted sociopath, like all other enemies of socialism.

      1. Closely related complaint: I chose a profession that wasn’t a lot of fun but paid well, while they chose one that was pleasant day-to-day and didn’t pay well. It’s my fault that I saved more money and could retire earlier, and I’ve got a “I’ve got mine, Jack, screw you” attitude. Because obviously the problem is that society doesn’t accurately measure the respective value of our contributions, and they’re entitled to reparations–from me.

  3. “The tendency to consider political leaders “very smart” is one of the most gaggingly stupid trends of modern life.”

    For the most part, that’s a defect on one side of the American political spectrum. Frankly, I think the left has bought whole-hog into fuhrerprinzip, just not explicitly. Every presidential candidate they put forward is the ‘most brilliant’, ‘bravest’, ‘most gorgeous’ — until the next one. And, conversely, every political opponent they face is baser, dumber, more vile and corrupt than the last, no matter what fictions they must create to make it so — a practice that, terrifyingly, they’re extending towards private citizens who they decide they dislike.

    I could be wrong, but I do not recall either Bush receiving that treatment from the right. Many (including myself) defended Bush 43’s intelligence from the bizarre attacks from the left, but would just as quickly criticize policy X, Y, or Z as stupid, ignorant, foolish, whatever. On the right, we still put forward HUMANS for office, not gods.

    1. That’s because the right has never been about “Reagan is my boyfriend, and nothing in America matters so much as my boyfriend Reagan and me.” Whereas the left has been drooling for politicians since Kennedy, at least.

    2. Ahh, but WHY?

      I think it ties to the ego of those on the Left. The “opinion makers” of the Left are all certain that they’re smarter than the average bear, wiser than the average guru, and holier (aka morally righteous by their standards) than the average saint. So they aren’t going to FOLLOW the average Saint Guru Bear, no sirreeee. They’ll only follow somebody AT LEAST as smart, wise, and holy as they see themselves to be. AT LEAST that smart….

  4. The political is always personal. Especially when it infringes on my person.

    I try more and more to abstain from the discussion of politics with just about anyone, because the end result is I tend to like them less.

    If someone says:

    “The Democrats are ruining this country. If we could only get a Republican in!”

    I’m apt to like them less than if they were to say:

    “Big gov’t is exactly what we need and I will do all that I can to further that goal.”

    At this point in time, ignorance is not really acceptable anymore – not to me. But if I know who you are and you’re honest about it, well, I can respect that.

      1. Same diff — though I’ll admit to a partiality for lolcats. But since cats are one thing no one has managed to politicize (unless we go into the whole fix or breed thing, and most lolcats don’t) I’m okay.

        1. Yes, lolcats are one of the great joys in life. Okay, they’d be somewhat down the list in importance, but still . . .

                    1. Okay, maybe I floundered a little but it wasn’t that crappie. Don’t knock me off my perch. Coddle me a little and don’t tread on me: I’m just a sole whose intentions are good.

                    2. Checks his wallet, then trouts over to the corner after Draven, pulling a deck of cards out of his shirt pocket. “Hey, wanna play some cutthroat?”

                    3. Look at the chronology of four prior posts in the thread:

                      Draven | August 5, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
                      accordingtohoyt | August 5, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
                      Draven | August 5, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
                      accordingtohoyt | August 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm |

                      The knowledgeable tone of SAH’s shape shifter “fiction” makes me uneasy enough. When our hostess also starts hopping impatiently back and forth in time, it’s prudent to say goodnight and tiptoe very very quietly away.

                    4. Well… to be fair, I live part time in Tudor England. Yes, I know, sanitation sucks, but it’s cheap. As long as you put the plumbing in the 21st century (well, first quarter. No, you don’t want to know) you’re fine.

    1. I must confess to a weakness, Charlie. Nowadays when I see an “O… in 20XX” bumper sticker, I often shout at them: “You drive like an Obama voter!”.

          1. the other day, driving behind a Pious, I say “stupid Pious drivers, can’t drive.” Dan says “Honey, it’s a PRIUS” “No, trust me, really, it’s a Pious. All praise to Gaia.” Takes him a few seconds, the dime drops and he starts laughing.

            1. You forgot. all Prius are disgraceful belchers of smug. Its supposed to remain inside the car but it escapes far too often.

            2. Heh. Seen that one several times before:

              “Damn Pious drivers! Probably smelly hippies, too!”

                  1. Quite. But, really, that’s just people. I meant the inanimate lumps of machined metal and/or polymer. Never seen a gun shoot its mouth off about how some other caliber was a sin against gods and men. Or womyn. Or what-have-you.

          1. She (and I0 simply are showing signs of that classic definition of stress. You know, the one where the mind is forced to override the body’s instinctive urge to choke the sh*t out of some *sshole who desperately needs it.

  5. Isn’t it odd how those people who demand that you listen to their hoohah and thereby PROVE that you value them as a friend will turn around and shut you down on any topic you bring up that is of no interest to them? Or worse, if you don’t agree with something they’ve said. I guess you don’t get to be valuable to the other person, let alone, force them to prove that they value you. A self-centered person finds no value in anyone outside themselves, and it’s always best to let such people drift out of your life.

    As far as politics ending up in your blog, It’s always been true for me, too. I have strong opinions, and I don’t usually feel much need to keep them to myself in my own venues. However, I shut one of my blogs down because I couldn’t keep the attack dogs out. I just got sick of the constant fights over even the most innocuous of statements. I’ve had a hard time even wanting to think about blogging, again, because of the foul taste that bs left in my mouth. Perhaps I’ll try it again, someday, but for now, I’m quite happy to hang out in other people’s spaces, where I can be comfortable and not have to worry about fending off never-ending attacks. I appreciate the laid-back and respectful atmosphere ’round these parts. ❤

    1. eh, that’s a personality type, not peculiar to politics. The same sort can interrupt you when you’re concentrating at work, vomit verbiage of mind-numbing dullness over you, and yet try emotional blackmail — I was just being friendly — when you object.

  6. I’ve been told to soft-pedal my politics (my secondary protagonist believes he should respect the individual sovereignty of his girlfriend: ooo! scary!) because it might alienate half my potential audience. To which I respond my interlocutor had better check his math. Last I looked less than 20% of the population self-identified as enemies of the people — er, I mean, leftists.


    1. And the people doing the branding aren’t going to leave you alone unless they are forced to…. in which case, their last gurgle will be “See!!! See! I told you so! AAARRRGGGHHH!”

  7. It seems to me that politics is like many othet things, good in moderation. You shouldn’t force it on people all the time but on the other hand you shouldn’t repress it either. There are times when you need to express a political opinion and do your best to inform people of the errors in their thinking, and there are, as you note, times when this would be a faux pas.

    I have to say that much the same applies to religion and I will note that contrary to received wisdom Mormons and Scientologists can be perfectly nice people who don’t try to ram their beliefs down your throat. Even when (especially when?) you are the sole non-believer in the group.

    OTOH the people who do have that desire all seem to be bansturbators, envirofascists and others of that red/green ilk . Frequently they also claim to be non-religious which I find amusing. If I’m drunk enough I challenge them to defend their claim that their belief system is not in fact a religion to Gaia and/or the all powerful state. They usually get very upset

    Separately I think it is interesting that most societies in the world seem to have the bonding ritual where you and your (potential) colleagues/business partners go out and get drunk together. I’ve always felt that one of the reasons for that is that you get to see beyond the veil of social politeness and find out if you have sufficient philosophical agreement to (continue to) work together or not.

  8. “The only system of belief that should intrude into every act of your life and how you do it is religion – and that should be a matter of individual choice.”

    While I agree with you, there are many who isolate religion into a narrow compartment, such as 10 to 11 AM on Sundays, and lock it up the rest of the time particularly so it does not have any impact on the rest of their lives.

    Then there is Islam, where the concept of separation of church and state is incomprehensible, because everything we in the USA might call “politics” and “religion” are not separate at all but part of Islam. Of course this makes it hard to have a conversation with our average fellow citizen about Islam, because they can only think of Islam as a “religion” and can’t comprehend that it includes everything we call religion and politics in one unified whole.

    As a Christian I found Thomas Sowell’s observation in “A Conflict of Visions” very interesting. (Paraphrasing from memory here) “Christianity is a subset of the Constrained Vision, because Christians believe in an Unconstrained God.” I have a hard time understanding those who profess to be Christians, yet follow the politics of the Unconstrained Vision. They almost never have considered the conflict between their political views and their stated religious views. I wrote “stated religious views” because it seems that their political views always trump their claimed religious views (and of course they claim there is no disagreement).

    “So I adhere to the Heinlein dictum that only a fool or a sadist tells the absolute truth at a social occasion.”

    This is also true in technical discussions. I have friends in my technical field with whom I have great differences of opinion on political, social, and religious matters. However, by just not discussing the issues on which we disagree, we can remain as friends and work together for the betterment of our mutual field.

  9. “The idea of someone smart enough to make a living through ideas disagreeing with the person never occurs to these people.”

    Yes. Because by and large they are living un-examined lives with un-examined opinions about how the world works.

    It’s funny, Sarah, that you were accused of not respecting your friend because you weren’t listening to (read as: agreeing with) their screeds, but they lacked the insight to recognize that they were the ones failing to respect the friendship. (not to mention the failure to pick up on visual and body language cues and what were probably forthright statements along the lines of “can we please talk about something else now?”) Ironic. Sad. All too familiar.

    1. Because by and large they are living un-examined lives with un-examined opinions about how the world works.

      AKA peasants.

    1. My gay communist associate recently told me he wants to go back to college to study nootropics. Yes, it’s a real thing. Says he wants to go down in history as the one who cured stupid.

      I hope he starts using them on himself first .. gay is fine but communism is stupid on stilts!


        1. As viruses are to computers, as alcohol & drugs are to the central nervous system, so is Marxism to the intellect.

          (The above embellishes, probably for the worse, something I read elseIdontrememberwhere.)

  10. Well, I personally started reading your books after I started reading your blog and it made me want more. And then I shared the books with my mother, who also enjoys them. So count two new fans, at least, that your discussion of politics created…

    1. Larry the Combat Accountant has mentioned several times that for every email gets saying “Your article offended me and I’m never buying another of your books” he gets five or six saying “Hey, you think kinda like me and write awesome books! I’m going to buy them all!”

        1. (Jumps up and down, waving) And me! And me!

          And, when I can spend some more book money, several others who I have discovered here.

    2. I had the same experience. Read the blog first and thought your ideas interesting enough that I wanted to read the books.

    3. The first thing I read by you was a ‘political’ article you wrote for PJ Media, pimped on the Bar by the estimable Madame Kittehdragon. Which introduced me to your blog (which at that time was nonpolitical, hence my snark the other day) and to your fiction.

      I am somewhat of a political junkie, but I attempt to not bring politics into a conversation constantly unless a) it is pertinent to the conversation, such as bringing Obamacare up in a conversation about health insurance b) I know the other person and that they are ok with conversations drifting down the political rabbit trails, c) the other person brought it up first or d) they are a raving idiot who I would like to either show themselves as a raving idiot or shut up and leave, preferably taking their idiocy with them.*

      *an amazing amount of the time c) and d) coincide which helps to reinforce to me that I shouldn’t be bringing up politics constantly where they don’t belong, lest I show myself as a raving idiot.

  11. Learning an author’s politics can be dangerous because then you are primed to see it in their works, which can make them preachy in a manner you could ignore while not primed.

    1. Amen. There are a few authors I don’t want to know the views of (even though some of them I strongly suspect of being Not Progs).

  12. I’ve tried in my books to be pretty evenhanded about the politics of my characters and by extension my own – it helps that I’m writing about the mid-19th century, so the sheer distance away from the present political scene tactfully veils a lot – but most of my characters are unashamedly capitalist, hard-working, family-oriented, and some of them are religiously devout. Straight up 19th century Tea Partiers. the lot – but I have also had a lot of readers and reviewers whom I suspect are considerably liberal, who saw what they wanted to see in my books – the horror of civil war, the second-class status of women – and who liked them very much on those grounds. I don’t want to be politically confrontational and alienate potential readers who might just be reachable.
    I vent about matters political on my original mil-blog, not on my book blog.

  13. I prefer to think more in terms of life philosophies and worldviews than “politics” as such. Seeing as the current political scene disgusts me, I feel like I don’t have a dog in the fight when someone starts discussing Obama administration policies or Republican counterattacks to them.

  14. Funny. At the training session I attended this past weekend, one of the neatest things was that they guys acted like and talked like guys. I was one of three women and it was a refreshing change to be with people who were more interested in a shared goal (surviving the weekend and getting re-certified) than in politics and gender correctness. The only politics was 1) a universal frustration with a certain agency in particular, something that goes back to the, oh, 1960s, and 2) disgust with the DHS and TSA (for making our paperwork more complicated and less efficient).

  15. And here I thought pseudonyms and nom de webs were so I could talk politics without deeply offending the True Conservatives or hardcore leftists in my family tree… all of whom infest my social media…


  16. Not because as it was common in the seventies “The personal is political” but because the side of the equation that views every facet of human life as likely to be improved by government regulation also tends to consider anything political.

    All else being equal, give me the society in which the personal is least political.

    And in which the interpersonal is least political.

    Maybe that’s a pretty fair political litmus test, right there.

  17. The amazing thing is that I have met more people who write with their hindbrain and are brilliant while being public life dolts than I care to mention

    *cough* JOSS *cough*

  18. Let’s put it this way – if she’d been on the right, she’d have been screaming at me that any minute the black helicopters and Soros-funded mercenaries were going to come and take half the population to FEMA camps.

    I have a newspaper story…somewhere… about an urban combat training exercise my brother was part of in Portland, where a guy had the same reaction– but it was under Bush, so it would’ve been (oh, gad, what are those libertarian brothers?) funded camps for homosexuals and women who put out, or something… he saw the military helos and “just knew” we’d invaded Iran.

    ‘cus the first thing you do when invading Iran is send black helos to secure Portland…..

      1. Didn’t, but that seems to be an ongoing thing– never mind that FDR’s the only one that made camps, and an argument for those being a way to protect Japanese Americans could be made. It happened, by a Dem, and thus the Rep side must be accused of really wanting to do it in a more horrible manner.
        (Pretty sure I’d be easily manipulated if an enemy power on part with the Nazis had my mom; the camps meant that “everyone knew” that any relatives in the US were imprisoned. Support could be drawn from Hawaii, where most of their defenders were Japanese ancestry…. Meh, just musing, it’s done, it was nasty, and I do not see any possible cause for it to be done again.)

        1. I’ve tried sneaking “The New Dealer’s War” by Thomas Fleming into one of my lefty friends’ reading stack … no success so far.

        2. It happened, by a Dem, and thus the Rep side must be accused of really wanting to do it in a more horrible manner.
          Yep – also see all the historical scrubbing currently in an effort to blame southern Republicans for the actions committed in the civil rights era by southern Democrats.

      1. Talking about the Koch Brothers, the “demonization” of them by the Left relates (IMO) to the Left’s “looking for a god-king”. Since they believe in “god-kings” they are always on the look-out for the opposite number. IE the “Evil Overlords of the Right” who are always looking for ways to destroy them. [Sad Smile]

        1. The same people who blame the Kochs for everything don’t have a problem with Soros (no, I don’t think he has black-copter mercs, the reality is bad enough without getting silly).

          1. Well of course they have black-helo mercs – All the upper crusters who have the cash to hire personal security hire from the same pool of ex-Mil, and at the higher end ex-SF, and those security folks get paid money, and generally they fly around in helicopters and private planes, though perhaps not all painted black for purely practical reasons – planes and helos painted anything dark reach a simply astonishing temperature inside parked out in the sun – thus all the white painted airplanes. So maybe it’s white-helicopter mercs.

      2. Enough with the facts that don’t fit! They’re evil socons, no matter what any evidence says!!!111!1!11


        (Note: I disagree with what I know of what either brother has done on most social issues, but IIRC they’re at least in the less harmful area of libertarian, rather than the “blow it up, ???, utopia!” sort….)

  19. Sarah wrote:

    If politics is a sort of Tourette’s to you and you find the need to interject, in a conversation about how good the wings are or how tasty the peanuts “It reminds me of the house budget resolution” and then a crass comment that assumes everyone is on your side in this – let it be. You will lose readers. Of course, in my case the reason you will lose me is not because I agree or disagree with your politics, but because I dislike violations of social spaces and am appalled at your lack of social empathy in not figuring out in a group of ten/twenty strangers, some will disagree with you either completely or “yes but” type disagreement.

    I can’t really look it up in “my copy” atm because I’m busy and “my copy” is an audiobook in itunes, but David Mamet’s _The Secret Knowledge_ has some interesting material on this sort of way to generate pressure for political conformity. I recommend the whole book.

    1. I will absolutely second a recommendation for Mamet’s “The Secret Knowledge”.
      From my copy – “… that something is beyond question most often means that its investigation has been forbidden. Why? Because it was untrue.” See: Communism, Keynesian economics, Global Warming, Climate Change, etc.

  20. Actually, it was your politics that first attracted me to your blog. Hmmm, so maybe it was a mistake to post them openly. *grin*. And then reading Larry Corriea’s famous gun post made me go out and buy one of his books (need to get more). It’s a welcome relief from the PC bullcrap that put me off buying books for so long.

    I had a friend I had known since my BBS days in college throw away our friendship over John F-ing Kerry. But I’ll admit, I was pushing back pretty hard when she was spouting the talking points verbatim.

  21. Politics arise from our differing axioms about what the purpose of life is, what rights are, what authority other people have to use violence to achieve their goals, etc.

    One can not have an interesting or meaningful conversation with another – past certain hobby topics like guitar playing, cooking, or the mechanics of plotting a novel – without digging into the Deep Stuff.

    I don’t want to have a friendship with a person where I can’t talk about the important things, and I don’t want to write a novel where I can’t talk about the important things.

    QED: my writing will be political.

    1. Likewise. That’s the conclusion I came to. I like talking about the Deep Stuff, so when I put it in my fiction, some might see it as “political.”

    2. There’s a certain amount of that which you can’t escape. The other day I was looking at my trunked novels (I have four or five of them) and all of them deal at least partially with the relationship of the main characters to their fathers (and for the record, I have a pretty good relationship with mine). The point is to make a great story first, because if the story isn’t good, then no one’s going to get your great social commentary on insert issue of your choice HERE.

  22. Is it very political to ask what do you think of Thomas Sowell or Victor Davis Hanson? If I’m hit with a clue by four, I’ll change topics. My medium talk involves talking about (non-fiction) authors I like and various blogs I read. My small talk is about the weather, and food.

    There are some fandoms where, if you don’t go along with the Received Wisdom, people will disassociate themselves from you. A lot of times it’s political. Sometimes it isn’t really. In one TV fandom If I didn’t agree that enjoying BDSM was never a sign of mental “issues” , I was the one with problems.

    It’s hard for me (I guess I’m just too picky) to continue reading a fanfic after a Marxism 101 lecture has been inserted into an otherwise readable story.

    1. it’s not very political. I admire them both, but Sowell more because I’m an economics geek — also VDH (my colleague at PJM __ how well that sounds) has a tendency to be depressive and so do I, which means sometimes we MUST avoid each other.

      1. > VDH has a tendency to be depressive

        I love VDH’s cranky rants, but a few weekends ago I was up in NH (looking for a farm to buy – this will be relevant in a moment) and came across his book “Fields without Dreams”.

        Reading about 1/3 of it I realized that VDH in bitesized chunks is marvelously cranky, but in a book-length rant about how farming sucks, and everyone and everything has conspired to turn it all to crap, even though it used to be an honorable profession, I realized that in the same way that one lemon candy is delightfully tart but a diet of nothing but lemon candies would be horrifying, VDH is best consumed one small blog post at a time.

        1. I like his straight history books. His modern musings get me too far down to read in book-length quantities.

        2. His history is quite good, however, TJIC. Culture and Carnage, is simply unequaled. A War Like No Other is good if you want a more readable treatment of the Pelopennesian War than Kagan’s fine but dry work. The Soul of Battle is good. Ripples of Battle – a confusing title given the earlier – is even better although some of Culture and Carnage themes are repeated.

          Mexifornia is cathartic for ex-Californians like myself.

          1. > Mexifornia is cathartic for ex-Californians like myself.

            After I move to NH I’m going to see if he’s written anything about Commichusetts

              1. Yeah, I know. ‘Twas a joke, and a chance to use the word “Commichusetts”. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if not for your darned meddling kids.

      2. I discovered Sowell in college; a professor introduced me to his work. It was eye-opening, often considering things I never even thought about before.

      3. Let me also say that while I don’t think utterly unchecked immigration is a good thing for the long term politics of our country, I find VDH’s incessant single note doom saying on the topic not only depressing but – as a leftist might say – a bit of a dog whistle.

        It’s certainly a bad idea to flood one small region of our country with millions or tens of millions of citizens of the bordering nation, but that doesn’t fully justify his blanket condemnation of immigration.

        1. The problem is that I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he says. What disturbs me and I’ve written about it before is a)immigration in a time of multiculti. Not only aren’t people encouraged to assimilate, they’re encouraged NOT to.
          b) Latin culture probably going as far back as Greeks and Romans encourages a “migratory worker” model rather than moving in and becoming a part of the American project. c)a non existent border — As we’ve seen with Italian (and Portuguese, but there’s so few of them) the distance and the difficulties of coming in override at least some of the “I’m just working to send money home/retire with a big house” cultural pressures. However, if you can just go back and forth because there’s no border, you’re ENCOURAGING the “we take and we send” mentality. d)VDH seems to agree with the left that there is no place in the future for lower IQ/unskilled (I don’t agree with this, but I do agree things will be a little rough for a while) and he’s rational. The open borders to the south means we import a lot of functionally illiterate people (even in their language, but in ours of necessity.) For VDH to oppose this given his views is a necessity. HOWEVER for the left given their views to import them either means they think the US owes the world a living (They might. Remember, they believe in Marxism and finite pie, which means for us to be this rich other people have to be poor, etc.) OR they think that by importing low skill people unable and not encouraged to integrate they’re creating the serf class necessary to their new feudalism. In either case, that last is the most likely result of the two. (Though neither is very likely. Most likely is rivers of blood.)

          1. Sarah, I think you and I are in complete agreement: in favor of immigration in a general way, quite concerned about the variety that VDH harps on in a specific way.

  23. The personal is political is one of the most evil memes ever. But as you note it has become incumbent on those of us who disagree to return rhetorical fire. One unfortunately has to subject oneself to potential Emmanuel Goldstein Alinskyite libel. See what Huff-n-Puff Post has done to poor Orson Scott Card.

    1. Oh, this and what SFWA did to Resnick are things that induce blind rage in me. You don’t want to go there. You just don’t. I still start swearing and pounding the desk.

      1. I found a lot of author blogs thanks to the Malzberg/Resnick mess and purposefully bought books by authors who supported them against the tide of political correctness run amok.

    2. I suspect the idea that the personal is political was dreamt up by a politician, looking for reasons to insert themselves into every aspect of our daily living.

          1. I think the slogan “the personal is political” came from 70’s Maoists. But many 70’s feminists were Maoists and other kinds of radical leftists.

        1. Can’t be, GK Chesterton railed against it too– I think it comes out of science.

          If you can test stuff, and be all systematic with everything else, why not people? If one person can do something, then the material “person” must have this quality… and any of the material “person” which does not is defective….

          Error of classing people as things.

          1. And THAT is the fundamental category error of the Prog, and that which makes them vile. They treat and think of people as “things”.

            Oooh, this has sparked some thoughts…

  24. Since the personal has been made the political, what can one talk about at cocktail parties without being political? The one true bracket style (everyone agrees that there is only one. Noone agrees on what it is.), Perhaps this is why cocktail parties have been in decline.

    Despite my irreverence, the lead question is very much a question for me.

    1. I’m afraid it has to be John Cleese’s reacton in the Cheese Shop sketch. Can’t actually quote it or the (omitted for fear of my safety) agency will come and take me away, hah, hah!

    2. In my geographic area, acceptable topics are 1) weather, 2) state of your yard/garden (see #1), 3) pets [if known to have them], 4) art [since I usually get trapped at a before or after party for a gallery or concert].

      1. Politics is very possible to talk about in mixed company, depending on how sneaky and or tolerant of screaming matches you are. Example from recent history:

        “We need to tax the rich, they don’t pay enough money.”
        “But I want to be rich someday, don’t you?”

        Occasionally one might provoke a thought.

      2. Weather talk often leads to globul warmening rants, so for me that topic is iffy unless I know the crowd. I ask about their kids, and pets, and job. Or talk about cars.

        1. Wait, I forgot a safe topic – Why don’t the strawberries available in the grocery stores taste like anything?

          (Context note – I am located behind the lines in Sunny Silicon Valley – While I agree with Dona Sarah’s premise above, I imagine there are quite significant regional and local differences in party conversation tolerance limit thresholds).

            1. Yes, I thought that would be a dangerous subject in mixed company*, myself.

              *mixed politically, not necessarily gender mixed.

            2. Which can very easily attract the locavore evangelists. Whenever I encounter those folks, I laugh at their naivete. Of course, my perspective is informed by growing up in a city (over 2 million people in the MSA now) where ALL the food (with the exception of a single orchard and pig farm) had to be brought in from more than 50 miles away. For all practical purposes, there is no such thing as “locally grown food” there. Yet, the locavores, lovingly coddled in the illusion that everywhere is like Portland or San Francisco, push their delusional agenda.

              1. My mom is still trying to get our locovores to understand supply and demand– they want to organize a collective.

                After “you will all die without imported iodized salt” didn’t’ get through to them, she went for the gut– pointed out that you have to butcher calves at a set time of year, and asked how they’d be distributing the yearly meat. When told it was equal shares, she said “alright, I want my share all in roasts and steaks.” It kinda derailed from there. You’re not allowed to PICK your meat, you see…..

  25. Haven’t had time to read all the comments, but quite a few. Let me say that it seems to me that the politics being derided is the politics of coercion. Which isn’t really politics at all. When coercion begins politics ends.
    I mentioned a book “In Defence of Politics” by Bernard Crick as comment on a previous blog. Let me bore anyone who will read further with a slightly extended quote:

    “Politics is a preoccupation of free men, and its existence is a test of freedom. The praise of free men is worth having, for it is the only praise which is free from either servility or condescension. Politics deserves praising as … the only social activity which aims at the good of all other ‘sciences’ or activities, destroying none, cultivating all, so far as they themselves allow. Politics, then, is civilizing…
    “Politics is conservative — in preserves the minimum benefits of established order; politics is liberal — it is compounded of particular liberties and it requires tolerance; politics is socialist — it provides conditions for deliberate social change by which groups can come to feel that they have an equitable stake in the prosperity and survival of the community.”

    So I say, I agree with Sarah on the proper role of politics in social contexts, but let us not deride politics as such, but endeavor to protect the process from those who would use it as a way to coerce and prevent the true dialogue that politics is meant to be.

    (Now I’ll step down off the soap box — actually, I feel more comfortable standing on an inverted potato crate from my grandmother’s cellar than a soap box.)

    1. Yes, soap boxes are entirely to flimsy. Many times politics is derided when really what the derider (is to a word) is really mentally doing is deriding not politics, but politicians.

      1. “whether my cat should be snipped”

        Only the long haired ones, and only during the summer.

        ” But I do want them off my litghtbulb choice,”

        In an almost unbelievable display of common sense the local building codes have been modified to eliminate the requirement for an outside light in front of doors at dwellings; since the incandescent bulb has become an endangered species.
        On a somewhat related note, incandescent bulbs are amazingly good sellers at estate auctions.

      2. Oh, I agree with you there. just like I agree with the person above who bemoaned how progressives have pushed politics into any and every area of our lives.

        Politics is an art of limits. It determines the limits of other things through ‘political economy’ and ‘budgeting’. Our modern problem is politics itself has lost its own limits.

    2. >When coercion begins politics ends.


      “War is politics by other means” – Carl von Clausewitz

      1. Sounds like we are turning from internal to external politics, which are different in this context. Just remember, even in external politics:

        “War … represents the failure of diplomacy,” Honor Harrington, Honor of the Queen

        1. Diplomacy is a way of saying nice doggie until you find a big enough rock to hit it with.

  26. for “them,” not only is the personal political, but the political is also personal. You fail to worship at their secular political altar to the god of government as they see it? Then you must be destroyed, personally. No attack is to vicious, no lie too absurd. You must be driven out. How many colleges professors that tolerate conservatives? But a few.

    And it’s only going to get worse as they get more power in more institutions. Look at the military’s “leadership” of late, for instance….

    1. “And it’s only going to get worse as they get more power in more institutions. Look at the military’s “leadership” of late, for instance….”

      I’m looking… but I don’t see any leadership.

  27. Sarah, I love your politics. I learned mine reading Heinlein. His lecture about how it was great to have a congress that could not pass any laws in “Glory Road” has stayed with me always. Thank God for gridlock!

    I found you through a Webscriptions Bundle. Also David Freer, Larry Correa, John Ringo and many more. Baen Rocks! I found Baen through its Free Library.

  28. “All politics is local” — and wherever there is a person, there is a locale.

    Frankly, whenever the political bleating gets excessive, I invoke the infamous line from William Marcy Tweed, Boss of Tammany Hall:

    “What are you going to *do* about it?”

    Haven’t yet met the person who can answer that question — the first one who can successfully do so, I’ll be perfectly willing to listen to anything he has to say about politics. Until then, in the words of the lead character of _The Running Man_:

    “*I’ve* seen too much? All I’ve seen are a bunch of low-foreheads who think they can change the world with Dreams and Talk. It’s too late for that — if you’re not willing to Act, then give me a break, and shut up.”

  29. Sarah,
    As a long time lurker (and reader of your books) I lurk around here at least in part because of the politics in the mix. Don’t stop!

  30. …you need never be afraid I’ll ambush you at a cocktail party with “You know, it’s amazing that the red sauce for these wings works, because communism never does, ar ar ar ar ar.”

    Fortunately, I am learning (slowly) to be sure I’m NOT drinking or eating anything when I read here, or you would definitely owe me a keyboard for that one. 🙂

  31. I don’t know about losing readers, but your politics (whether or not I agree with each point), openness, and insight gained me as a reader, and now my father reads you as well.

  32. My favorite retort to anyone telling me how dumb George Bush, the second one, was, is to ask “So how many different jet aircraft have you qualified to pilot?” That’s usually the extent of their political knowledge- they read the talking points on how stupid Republicans, especially conservative ones are, then repeat them verbatim. It’s very annoying.

    1. And so, so classy. Apparently, GW Bush recently had a stent put in, and he had lots of death-wishes from the Left.

  33. Try being a conservative/libertarian high school teacher. The vast majority are leftists and many of them think it’s perfectly OK to make some snide throwaway comment against some conservative opinion or character at lunch, in the staff meetings, or anywhere else they happen to be.

    1. I feel your pain — I experienced these for years at professional meetings, as a writer, and since my job depended on the editors making the comments I had to stay quiet. Stay strong!

    2. Or a conservative/libertarian who served in the military, going to a film school in Los Angeles.

        1. Oh, and keep in mind also I went back to college at age 32. So, me, child of the 80s, Odd, technically ‘published writer’… and 95% products of the modern school system.

          Lets see, the Quentin Tarantino worshipers trying to write and/or direct gun action, who have never handled a live firearm in their lives. The Green Vegans who are offended by me eating tacos with meat on them that i bought at the carniceria around the corner. The people who think M. M.’s documentaries are the sacred truth and won’t hear any different. The wannabe hippies who still cling to the ‘babykiller’ image the MSM gave us from ‘nam. The flock of Japanese girls who think different about the meanings of color than we do. (One teacher used the example of white vs red for wedding dresses…) Take all of the above and stick them in an Earth Science class where the instructor shocks them by showing that the warmest year in the temperature record was in 1998… yeah fun times. But at least there was a portion of Odds, and vets, and some at least more libertarian minded people…. I can imagine what it would have been like at one of the ‘better’ film schools.

          1. He didn’t care for being called that either, but it beat the nickname for his given name. 🙂

            Ah well, worth checking. ^.^

  34. I have a cousin named Benny, but I don’t think he ever went to a film school.

    1. And again I have commented at the bottom of the page, thinking I was replying to the thread just above. *sigh*

  35. I like it that people have different views and opinions. I love it when people express those differences and share them in a discussion of ideas with others. I HATE it when there is a person that says I can have my opinion as long as it is the same as theirs. Those are the ones I unfriend in more ways than one. And it works for me. I get along with so many different types of people it’s rare to find someone I can’t engage in conversation with at a cocktail party, or a con suite.

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