For 24 years, I was mute at this time of year. I had to hold my fingers crossed - so tightly they turned blue - rather than speak my opinion, attend a rally, march during a protest. Because I was, after all, a member of the Fourth Estate - banned from participating in anything resembling a CAUSE. In my thirties, I slipped up and spoke before the City Council in my home town of Half Moon Bay, incensed about a hotel that was going up in my back yard. And then I wrote about it - for which I was admonished by my editor. "It's a trade-off," he shrugged. "You can either write about these things, or protest them in public." It didn't take a genius to realize that it was a much better deal to have the eyes and ears of several hundreds of thousands, who would read my words on the page.
But those days are OVER. And thank God for that! I can wear OBAMA t-shirts and put OBAMA signs in my windows and OBAMA bumper stickers on my car. AND... the best parties I've been in recent weeks have been Obama benefits! First at Ellen Sussman's house: Jane Smiley, Stephen Elliott, Daniel Handler, Tom Perrotta and George Saunders (both in town for Litquake) did readings and we all enjoyed the gorgeous Peninsula sunshine. Then the following week - an even spendier event at the home of Robert Mailer Anderson, featuring Tobias Wolff, Tamim Ansary, Isabel Allende, Anne Lamott and Michael Chabon. A truly fabulous party with a galvanizing we-can-do-this vibe. Many thanks to all those authors for putting their bodies and talents to good use.
By the way, Stephen Elliott, who also organizes the Progressive Reading series here in SF, had a brilliant quote at one of these events, which I pass along as food for thought. He was talking about how he'd tried to find conservative authors of literary fiction for an anthology, but had been unable to identify even one! "Literary fiction is character driven," he noted. "And to write good characters you have to have empathy, and if you have empathy, you're a liberal."
Finally, I can't resist a shout-out to my friend Terry McMillan, who told me at this weekend's Book Group Expo that she had quietly spent four hours of her Saturday making phone calls to swing states for the OBAMA campaign. She told me that one call recipient brought her to tears: the elderly lady could barely see, and was wheelchair-bound, but she wanted desperately to vote. Could Terry help her? she asked. Terry tried. And I hope a certain 80-something in New Mexico gets the ride she needs to the polls next week.
These are critical times, people. As Dante noted, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."
Rejoice in your ability to get involved! I certainly am!