Authors and Civic Engagement
We live in an ugly time.
White supremacy is emboldened again. Modern Nazi groups, if not at the table are at least allowed in the room. Blase violations of the civil rights of children at the border, (and certainly beyond.) Rising Islamophobia. Homophobia. Rejection of science.
It’s a modern Dark(ish) Age, and I do in fact assign a great deal of the blame to Donald Trump and those that support him. I have said as much here on my website, calling out bigotry, and I have done so on my Twitter account.
And the conventional author’s wisdom says I probably should not. At least not until I have a fan base, or publishing deal deep in the bag. After all, why alienate potential readers who might enjoy my writing by “getting involved in politics.”
For the sake of my “brand” and the sake of peace, should I not talk blog and Tweet only about the writers life, with some observations about introversion and The Spectrum thrown in? (Which is about 80% of what I post about anyway.)
I’ve not found that this path leads to more literary success so far. But even if there were a stronger body of evidence that it would, I’m not sure I could maintain my silence in such ugly times.
Was it not silence on the part of the intelligent, the observant, the artists that allowed the door to open on any number of dictatorships in our (not so distant) history? Do we not become accomplices before, during and after the fact when we tiptoe with care around the fires that are slow-burning society to the ground, cautious so as not to raise eyebrows at the book signing?
I say yes. And though I have at times tamped down the frequency of my commentary, I’ve never been able to fully embrace isolating myself as an author and writer from the battles of humanity around me. They are my battles as well. (Incidentally, they are also your battles, those of you who love to “avoid politics.”)
Am I damaging my brand, my possible sales, my reputation among potential readers by actively observing and responding to what I see as human rights issues, and other “political” events? I’d love to think that I wasn’t, and that my books have merit in their own right. Yet even if I am wrong, and I am shooting myself somewhat in the foot, I would no doubt damage myself more by saying absolutely nothing in days such as this.
It would be impossible for me to be who I am, an author, and totally silent about non-writing issues at the same time. What can I tell you? It doesn’t make me any kind of hero, but I cannot be a bystander either.