*It’s interesting. I’ve gone on becoming more and more myself, to the point the person who wrote this post feels like a stranger. I guess this makes a good “How it Begun.” – SAH*
Whole a blast from the past from November 2013
So I thought I’d give a report, only it’s not a report on the current state of my writing so much as on the current state of my psyche – and no, it’s not whining. In fact, it’s surprisingly not whining.
It’s almost exactly a year since I decided to throw caution and social manner to the winds and be myself as hard as I could on this blog, as well as everywhere else.
I’m not even absolutely sure how to characterize this “coming out” since I find being called “conservative” almost puzzling when my ideal state is almost a complete overturn of the current crony capitalism and also has bloody nothing to do with “conservative” in Europe which implies a belief in classes, etc. But I knew that when I decided to start talking about what I believe the “establishment” would characterize me as “conservative” and also, therefore, as “a bad person.”
Look, first, I’m going to point out that having to hide your opinions, political or otherwise, is likely the normal state of the human race. I’m not whining (or not much) except in comparison perhaps with an ideal state, where every man shall sit beneath his vine and his olive tree and no man shall make him afraid – something that has yet to happen in human life.
One of the unspoken conditions of getting a job is to pretend to be the sort of person that your employer would like to employ. This can mean something innocuous, like you’re the sort of person who is clean and polite and show up on time, but because humans are humans you pick people like you (or like what you want to be like) to associate with, so you’re likely to pick people on less tangible characteristics. It is not a slander to say that religious people might prefer someone of their religion. Throughout history, immigrant communities have preferred to hire someone of their own ethnicity. And people who’ve gone to the “correct” colleges and hold the “correct” opinions are likely to hire the same. Which is what we’re faced with in the writing community.
It only seems strange because it’s so uniform, and there used to be almost no refuge. That is a side effect of both the concentration of publishing into a very few houses and of the “long march” that the extreme left has engaged in in this country. (Very long – if we’re to believe Heinlein, and I do, then they were in a fair way to taking over one of the major parties in the thirties.)
To me, too, hiding my opinions was perfectly normal. Look, guys, if I hadn’t learned the fine art of double think, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have survived my high school years, let alone emerged from college with a degree in the liberal arts. I just pretended, when answering the questions that they were set in a separate universe, where Marxism works.
So when I started trying to break into writing, I didn’t consciously think of hiding my opinions, but I also didn’t go out of my way to rub anyone’s nose in them. And then, after I’d broken in and talked to some editors – including the surreal conversation with the one who thought libertarians wanted to ban the internal combustion engine (and also were close kin to Satan) – I started not only purposely hiding my politics but laying in a trail of confusion and razzle dazzle both in my works and out of it.
Mind you, my opinions are “diverse” enough. As most of you know I have no issues with gay marriage, but I do have an issue with forcing churches to perform it. I can see euthanasia being legalized as a personal decision (none of my business, even if I’d try to talk a friend out of it) but hate the idea of the creep (people who are allowed to euthanize while depressed/mentally ill) and also of the state (or even the establishment) convincing people to do this “for the good of others.” I won’t say I don’t have an issue with abortion – in terms of “war on women” the health issues that attend it, the SOCIETAL issues that attend it, and the almost universal pressure to sanctify it are pretty icky. I’ve talked about it on this blog, and I don’t intend to go there again. I think the whole “you’re a human if mommy says so” corrodes our civil liberties. I also think it’s almost impossible to stop before ten weeks, and the whole idea of a regulatory apparatus to stop it completely makes me queasy. In my more annoyed moments I wonder if the regulatory apparatus to stop the murder of ADULTS is worth is.
Beyond that, it’s a gut thing. I was raised “pro choice” – no other option since I grew up in Europe and all the bien pensant were “pro choice” – but I haven’t called myself that since the first time I got pregnant. Personal. Internal. Intense. Let it go.
However, the way the establishment works, it doesn’t matter how many things you agree with them on, if you don’t agree with them on something, then you are Satan. It is, I think, the result of being a small, insular society, no different from a tiny village in an isolated region. They are afraid of the stranger and those who are different.
So I learned to play on the opinions I shared with them and not mention the ones I didn’t. The fact that they tend to assume “all smart people agree with me” helped me greatly. As did the fact they believe “conservatives” froze sometime between the nineteenth century and the fifties. The fact I think women have minds, the fact I believe melanin has nothing to do with capacity to perform intellectual tasks. If I touted those, I was immediately assumed to be “one of the good people.”
Not enough, mind. I was never willing to parrot the whole party line enough to become one of the precious darlings. That’s fine. But it was enough to keep publishing in a broad spectrum of houses. And I didn’t go so far, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.
I confess I didn’t realize how much pressure I’d been under. I used a nom de blog to comment on political blogs (and cause mischief.) I was in the background of several discussions as the Dan Rather thing unraveled for instance. But in the daylight world, I pretended never to read anything outside Main Stream media.
Then Toni Weisskopf, who had been talking to me ABOUT Puppet Masters asked if I wanted to write the afterword to the re-edition of the book.
There’s no way I could pass that up, even if it meant outing myself. In fact, at the time I remember thinking “Should I?” then I thought “Come on, how many of them will read Heinlein?”
As it turns out surprisingly few. In fact, each step in this “coming out” was attended with a few more whispers, but nothing overt, until a year ago when I finally started seeing doors overtly shut in my face. Which is fine. I knew what I was doing.
It still comes as a LONG journey. Four years ago, I practically spit coffee on my monitor when I saw my name mentioned on Instapundit (turned out to be about one of my books.) The last year I’ve now and then helped out when Glenn is on vacation… And yet it was only when I decided not to stay away from politics on this blog that people got upset. And frankly the posts they get REALLY upset about are the anti-Marxist ones. (All the while assuring me they are NOT Marxist and that Marxism is dead. Guys, historians are going to have a field day with our time. If enough civilization survives that there are historians.)
Have doors shut off? Well, yes. Though nothing overtly enough that I could tell you “this is because I came out.” — I think in the modern day, discrimination, whether from the left or right, is more subtle than that, which is why people feel the need to fake overt discriminatory episodes. They know it’s there, and they can’t prove it, and they go unhinged – and frankly, with the advent of indie at the same time, the couple of doors that shut off were a blessing in disguise – it meant I had SOME time to go indie in, in addition to my work for Baen.
So – a year in, what has my final throwing open of the ideological closet doors meant?
Externally, not much. Indie gave me the ability to do what a friend had advised and I couldn’t do YEARS ago: a) never work for people I don’t respect. B) don’t write something just because you can sell it and you need the money.
Even if I hadn’t come out politically, my external demeanor would be the same, because… indie.
Internally… it’s a whole other matter. I didn’t realize, honestly, I didn’t, how much effort it took just to hold up the false front. Imagine that you have to go through an entire day holding up one of those Greek theater masks in front of your face with your right hand. Everything you do is with your left, and you can’t shift your arm, you don’t have flexibility to rest that hand, you don’t—
Like that. But over years and years. The brain space devoted to playing chess with potential would-be guessers of my real opinion, and more importantly, the brain space required to not say something I couldn’t live with while not openly dissenting, were driving me batty, and I didn’t even know it.
Mind you, I wasn’t even any good at dissembling. I’ve since found that everything I think shows on my face (which explains so much.)
BUT just keeping this side of open opposition was taking so much nervous energy that it’s a miracle I could write at all.
A year later? A year after being able to admit to my own thoughts in public? How does it feel?
Well, it feels very strange – you have to remember I grew up in an environment where most of my beliefs are beyond heretical. It’s the habit of a life time. – Sometimes I put up posts, and this will be one of them (note I’m putting it up the day before Thanksgiving with blog traffic in the tank. I’m brave, but not crazy.) – and wait for the blow to fall and cringe at the screaming that will surely start.
But it also feels… well… the way to describe it is that I have more room to be myself in. It’s like I grew up in a little box and now for the first time I can stretch out.
I feel – whole. That would be the best way to describe it. Just whole.
So – is that worth it? I mean, I don’t go out of my way to yell my politics at the hairdressers, in the grocery store, on the street (okay, I do shout at certain bumper stickers, but I always did! And it’s in the privacy of my own car) or in social occasions. BUT when I’m having a discussion with someone, I can let my reason go where it will and not be afraid it will endanger my livelihood.
And when I’m writing, I don’t have to think “How does this belief sound if I were a NYC liberal?” I can let the writing flow, and be what it needs to be.
That alone – that alone is worth it. A thousand times yes. It’s not a luxury most human beings have been able to have throughout history.
The great artists of the past, and the great writers too, were all hemmed in on politics and had to step carefully.
But we’ve come to a point I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. We might be playing for all the civilizational chips. And it feels very good not to be on the sidelines. And mostly – from a personal point of view – it feels good to be whole and to be myself as hard as I can.