It happens nearly every time. I’ll be reading a short story, let’s say, enjoying myself, lost in the experience—when suddenly, there it is: the gratuitous and mean-spirited and out-of-context slap at Bush, or at those who support him. It’s not as though the story is even tangentially about politics, either; it can be about anything at all, it doesn’t really matter.
The Bush-dissing will be thrown in when you least expect it, just to let the reader know—well, to let the reader know what, exactly? To let the reader know that the author is hip, kindly, intelligent, moral—oh, just about everything a person ought to be. And that the reader must of course be a member of the club, too—not one of those Others, the warmongers, the selfish and stupid and demonized people who happen to have voted for Bush.
Back when I was one of the gang, too, back when I was in with the in crowd (“if it’s square, we ain’t there”), did I notice when authors dragged in their political credentials from left field? Or perhaps it wasn’t quite as commonplace back then for them to do so?
At any rate, now it seems positively obligatory. I’m reading along, sunk deep within the story, bonding with the characters—and then, suddenly, it’s as though the author has reached a hand out of the pages of the magazine (OK, I’ll confess, sometimes it’s the New Yorker—yes, I still read it for the fiction, just as some people claim they read Playboy for the interviews) and slapped me across the face.
Authors, do you really want to do this? Because, with a single sentence, you’ve managed to alienate and offend (not to mention insult) up to half your audience.
I don’t think this even occurs to you. I think you just assume that anyone perceptive and intelligent and downright nuanced enough to be reading your fabulous work couldn’t possibly—no, say it isn’t so, Joe!!—support that disgusting, repulsive, lying POS Bush. Or maybe you just don’t care. Maybe you don’t want people like that for your audience.
It’s not just authors. It’s plays, concerts, performances of all kinds, even those given by friends of mine, people I know and otherwise respect, people with good hearts. It’s poetry readings most particularly. It’s gotten so bad that I go to all cultural events girding my loins and waiting for the blow to fall, waiting for my intelligence and judgment and ethics to be insulted. And this from people who consider themselves culturally and morally superior, although this sense of superiority doesn’t seem to reside in their needing to prove themselves to be well-informed or logical or knowledgeable about the issues—just in letting the world know that they’re on the right side of them (which would be the left side, naturalment).