Am I Getting Political Again?
The photo was taken in Bogalusa, LA, in 1965. It was the year after I graduated from the University of South Carolina.
If you’ve only read my books or only recently started coming to the site you may be asking yourself, “again?” Most of my early life I was a political news junkie and verbal blogger who could be counted on to try and shift any conversation to my leftish politics. I suppose I thought it was what I knew something about. I certainly had a passion for it. Then in the early nineties I made a personal move toward serious meditation and all of that other stuff increasingly felt irrelevant.
I still meditate. Being an early riser I carve out ten or fifteen minutes a day and often more. But the intensity of the earlier years has gone. I’m not sure why but I am sure I could still use more than I’m giving to it. Nowadays, I try to tell myself that what happens to politics in the U.S. no longer matters but when the NYT, or even the local Tico Times prints an article on inequality or racism, I feel the gore rising again.
I recently wrote a four-page polemic on racism and the future in which I attributed the ability of a minority of Americans to strangle government to the structural aspect of gerrymandered congressional districts and an emotional aspect called racism. Actually, I lump all the “anit-isms” (anti-gays, women’s equality, etc.) into the same category because the same people seem to hold the same fear of diversity. Since I consider myself a left-of-center type these days, the polemic seems to herald a shift back into the fight.
Just a few years ago I would have embarrassed myself to be so strident.
The racism aspect is particularly upsetting. Having grown up in the South and having participated as a youthful racist, most of my adult life was spent denying my own racism and “fighting” it in my public life. These days, I’m willing to accept the possibility that we never fully discharge it once it settles in. That certainly appears to be the case in the American polity. It is most evident in the Republican Party but I don’t think the Dems are exempt. Neither, of course, are members of other races.
Today, I think of myself as a recovering racist who has to keep his guard up. I thought that was true of American political culture also, but if it ever was, the guard has surely dropped.
What now? My two published novels have strong racism themes although they are primarily focused on the Indigenous. My next two are under construction and those themes are still prominent.
The one thing I am sure of is that political motives cannot take precedence over telling a good story and pushing my writing to new levels.