Writer's empty nest syndrome has been replaced by writer's outrage.
Ever since the GOP nominated Sarah Palin for VP, I've been like a caged animal, pacing the confines of my online persona. I've wanted to blog about my fury and disbelief. How can someone so rabidly anti-choice, anti-gay rights, anti-book (yes, she has sought to ban books); someone so savagely inhumane that she has actively upheld the aerial hunting of wolves and other wildlife against the majority of Alaskan voters' wishes even be allowed to serve this country in an official function, much less leap to such a high echelon with so little to commend her?
I even told a friend about my decision to come out publicly against her, and was astonished when this friend - whom I consider to be both erudite and liberal - replied, "Are you sure it's a good idea to mix your politics with your literary career?"
For a second, I was flummoxed - a rarity for me. "I had no idea they should be separate," I finally managed to say.
"Of course, they should be," she said. "Readers see you as a historical fiction writer; they want the fantasy you bring them in your novels. Your books are about famous women in history, who face injustice and fight against gender-bias. And you're a debut writer seeking a loyal readership; now, you want to go and attack the first female vice presidential nominee? What do you think those readers, most of whom are women, will think? I bet, they'll think: Well, in the end he's not a feminist at all. He's just like every other man. When we get too close to power, they all feel threatened."
Now, I must admit, her comment hit a nerve. Yet my gut reaction was to shout in anger at my friend for pointing out a harsh reality I didn't want to consider. Of course, I would not wish to alienate readers; but since when do genitals dictate political experience? Sarah Palin, in my opinion, isn't a step forward for women or anyone else: she's a step backward for this entire nation. Her conservatism, her hypocrisy, her vehement attack on issues I strongly believe in make her my worst nightmare. To be honest, I don't see her gender. She's sexless; like McCain. Hell, she's Republican.
"But she's not. She's a symbol," said my friend. "Women all over the US are looking at her and thinking, at last! Someone has broken through that good ole' boys club in Washington. You'll be doing yourself a grave disservice as a writer if you come out against her at this delicate time in your career. It could really hurt you."
So, now my career was at stake because I dislike Sarah Palin? But I did see her point, as much as I didn't want to. Writers need readers; we need them to like and buy our books, to recommend them to others and support us. And yes, the majority of historical fiction readers, according to statistics, are indeed women. Would my blogging about Palin's abysmal enviornmental record and her atrocious views on everything from family planning to the war in Iraq destroy my reputation as that nice guy who writes novels in a woman's point of view? Would it make me out to be a fraud, a chauvinist dressed up as a sympathizer? Would they turn against me?
"You can't say it," my friend advised. "Later, when you're established, maybe. But not now."
Now, anyone who knows me knows that to tell me I can't do something is like waving that proverbial red flag: it only makes we want to do it more. But I spent the next few days ruminating, worrying, doubting . . .
Then I realized: I was born in the US. I'm a citizen. I vote. If Sarah Palin has the right to her opinions, why shouldn't I? She doesn't seem to be fretting over whether she alienates everyone who isn't like her; she went up to that podium and tore into the Democratic ticket like a self-described pitbull with lipstick. Why shouldn't I?
And so I am saying it: Sarah Palin represents the worst the US has to offer. She will drill on our coasts and destroy the Arctic National Refuge for her friends in Big Oil. She will dictate what books libraries can stock and campaign to take away the gamut of literary expression. She will speak out against a woman's right to choose and against a parent's right to allow their children to learn about sexual health in school. She will fight gun control and any legislation that seeks to regulate global warming, because she believes in the right to bear arms and that humans aren't responsible for the planet's destuction. And perhaps most importantly to my readers, she will turn back the clock on all our rights, if she gets her way.
And if I have my way, by mid-November she'll be a footnote in history - and a far more worthy woman will one day be our president.