Go Forth and Have No Fear -By Christopher M. Chupik
Last last year was a rough one in the SF field, there’s no denying it. Angry words have been exchanged, friendships have been broken and bridges burned. It’s been one for the history books, filed under “annus horribilis”.
On a more personal level, it’s been a year of good and bad for me. And an interesting one for someone who has stood on both sides of the political divide. Over the last decade and a half, my politics underwent a seismic shift. You see, I used to be a liberal. Not a Marxist, though looking back I can see that I unknowingly bought into certain Marxist tropes. And I have always been a little uneasy towards the extreme Left. Being a Ukrainian-Canadian, I was all too aware of the evils of communism. But I used to believe that firearms needed to be restricted, that capitalisms excesses needed to be curbed, and that Americans, while generally good, were also a bit nuts and probably needed to be taken down a notch.
9/11 happened and the world slipped off its axis. Pretty soon I was watching fellow liberals trying to make excuses for Bin Laden and the Taliban. How could they be so morally blind? How could people who claimed to stand for gay and women’s rights bend over backwards to make excuses for religious fundamentalists who kill gays and oppress women? Pretty soon, I couldn’t call myself a liberal anymore, but I still harbored suspicions about the Right. After all, I still bought into the media narratives about how racist/sexist/fascist/homophobic they were.
However, I was paying more attention to the Right. I knew I had been wrong about a lot of important things, so I was willing to listen to those opinions I had formerly dismissed. Slowly I began to see I was wrong about conservatives and libertarians. They weren’t fascists, they weren’t racist and they weren’t sexist. A few homophobes, yes, but that’s declined sharply over the past decade. Slowly but quietly, I began to identify as a libertarian.
This being the Bush years, anyone who wasn’t towing the left-wing anti-war, anti-American line was subject to ridicule and scorn. So I kept my mouth shut. I ducked out of discussions that turned political. When con panels suddenly took a turn to the partisan I kept quiet, sometimes leaving. But never speaking up. I suppose it worked, so far as it kept me out of political arguments. It was the safe and easy way. Hey, I’m Canadian, after all. It’s in our cultural DNA.
There were problems, of course.
Fandom is very tolerant . . . of some things. But like the entertainment industry, it has long since been colonized by the political Left. I also live in a country which is sometimes characterized as “Soviet Canuckistan”. Even after ten years of a Conservative government, we’re a pretty left-wing country. Heck, even my own province of Alberta, which would be a red state in American terms, just elected a socialist NDP government. So being a libertarian hasn’t been easy. There have been flashpoints.
A person who was a friend of mine made a snide comment on Facebook about how conservatives couldn’t possibly be geeks. That would be news to about half my friends. This was the final straw. I still have quite a few friends who are to the Left of me politically. There’s a lot I can take. What I can’t take is that kind of casual, unthinking bigotry. And believe me, there are no bigger bigots than those who think they can’t possibly be bigoted. So I lost a decade-old friendship rather than get into a big public fight. And it sucks. I don’t like to have enemies, and I don’t consider my former friend to be one. Maybe I should have rebuked him and pointed out how foolish his remark was. I certainly would now.
I got to reading Sarah’s blog from links from Instapundit. It was her Human Wave posts, in which she was able to put a name to the problem I had with far too much modern SF. Other people saw the same things I did. I wasn’t alone. I started commenting at my favorite blogs, using my own name. It only occurred to me later that I could have used a screen name for fear of being associated with the “wrong crowd”, but I didn’t. Maybe subconsciously I was finally tired of hiding who I was.
Then came Sad Puppies. I saw Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen weather a firestorm of falsehoods and hysterical claims that would have sent most people down to their knees, begging forgiveness. You know the litany: racist/sexist/fascist/homophobic . . . There was a time, of course, when I would have believed such claims without question. But I’ve looked at life from both sides now.
So I became more active during the Hugo Wars. And while it’s created some awkwardness, it was worth it. Now I’m writing guest posts at Sarah’s and the Mad Genius Club. The other side has noticed me (Everyone turn and wave at File 770!). And during it all, I got published in my first anthology and received my first royalty check. I’m writing more than I ever have and I’m finally getting paid for it.
They say that fear is contagious, but so is courage. When someone makes a stand, it inspires others to do the same. If you’re a conservative or libertarian in fandom, don’t stay in the closet. I’m not saying to get in people’s faces and start needless fights over politics. That’s what SJWs do. But don’t stay silent. Silence isn’t safer, just easier. Be that dissenting voice in that panel on politics on SF that’s run by two liberals and a communist. Object when someone decides to use a forum as their personal bully pulpit. Don’t let them marginalize you.
The other side has created the illusion that they are the dominant voice of fandom. And we help them maintain that illusion every time we hold back and bite our tongues. The idiotic idea that we are somehow “infiltrators” or “not real fans” can’t survive when people realize that they’ve been friends with “the enemy” all along.
How will my gay and trans friends respond when they learn that the guy who has been their friend was actually an “evil right-winger” the entire time they’ve known me? I don’t know. Perhaps some of them will abandon me. I hope not, but I’m prepared for that possibility. One thing’s for certain: I’m not backing down. There’s no way I can be quiet anymore.
There’s room in fandom for all of us. Yes, even the people you disagree with. Don’t be afraid of being yourself. To hide who you are is to kill a part of one’s self.
Like the song says, go forth and have no fear.