Listen, I can get as political as the next guy or gal.
You’re in power thanks to Washington, DC and the establishment. Look at your cabinet. Look at your VP. You’re established. You’re the swamp.
— Karis E. Rogerson (@KarisRogerson) January 21, 2017
In fact, just this morning I sent out a nice little Twitter storm about draining the swamp versus joining the establishment. Because I have feelings and thoughts and they can be of a political bent, sometimes. I’m about to head out to march with a ton of other women in NYC, being in spirit with the thousands in DC and across the country. I have strong opinions and a voice, and I like to use it for what I think is good.
But not everything I do is political. In fact, much of my writing, my fiction writing and even my personal essays, doesn’t deal with politics. In fiction, I write young adult novels about heartbroken teens dealing with grief, loss of loved ones, loss of hope, and I delve into their ability to find joy through the mess.
In my personal essays, I talk a lot about mental health, relationships and pizza. So, not exactly political.
And I’ve seen posts saying writers and poets need to set aside the pursuit of art for the next four years and only use our voices to protest and act as watchdogs against the new government.
So first, I’m gonna say a few words about why that’s important — acting as watchdogs.
We — but I’m just speaking about me right now — are against Donald Trump for a variety of reasons.
I’m against him because he started his campaign by making racist statements. He has insisted upon building a wall on the border, but has no plan for payment.
I’m against him because he has often said things that can be inferred as going against America’s policy of religious freedom — such as indicating that he might at some point ban people based on religion.
I’m against him because he definitely did mock a reporter with a disability, even if he says he didn’t.
I’m against him because he wants to repeal Obamacare but doesn’t yet have a plan in place. Did you know that, without insurance, I would have to spend $1,200 a month on my medication or risk spiraling into depression? And Obamacare ensures I have insurance through my parents until I’m 26, and that after that I can’t be rejected for my pre-existing condition. And Trump wants to get rid of it without making a plan to replace it.
So, yes, I’m against Trump. And if need be, in the right time, I’ll speak up and out and do my part to be a political activist.
But I don’t need to always speak up about politics. Sometimes I just need to tell a story. A “mere” story. A funny, heart-jerking, tear-inducing story. That story might be subconsciously political — it might contain themes of racial equality as important or it might contain themes of female power and innovation and feminism.
Or it might not. It might just be a love story. Its message might be to teenagers that it’s OK if you never date, and that a boy or girl can’t make you whole.
The point is, it won’t necessarily be political in nature.
And I think that is just as important as the political narrative.
This Tweet here says it better than I ever could, so I’ll let it speak and then say some more words:
They’re targeting arts and humanities because arts and humanities create and foster empathy. We must protect art for that exact reason.
— K. Locke (@Bibliogato) January 19, 2017
Yep, there it is. Stories, “mere” stories, are important and world-rocking and life-changing. They teach people how to feel for others, how to understand others, how to react and relate to others.
One of the most important books I read last year was The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon. I could infer some political activism from the story, but I don’t have to. What I do have to do, though, is understand people different from myself with a vastly different narrative.
The Sun is Also a Star is about a girl who’s about to be deported to Jamaica and a boy of Korean descendant who fall in love. It’s beautiful, touching, heart-rending. It doesn’t have a nice, clean and perfect ending, but it teaches a lot.
And it’s one of the first books I’ve read where none of the title and point-of-view characters are of my race. Yet I could still relate to them, because their feelings were universal. They were human, and they felt and related to human things. And therefore, I could relate to them.
Their love story pierced my heart despite the fact that they look and act and believe things different from how I look and act and believe.
And that’s why it was important.
That’s why art is important. It opens our eyes to other perspectives, it allows us to feel things with an intensity and a piercing beauty.
After the election, I swore I would never write again, because who would care about my stupid stories in light of what’s happening in America — in light of the fact that a foreign country literally interfered in our election and our president doesn’t seem to care about the rights of anyone who isn’t male and white and just like himself. Who would care?
I didn’t write for a month after that. And then I began writing again, and I found life within myself again.
That’s why I write mere stories, silly stories, young adult novels that don’t outright deal with politics. Because it gives me life, and because it can give hope to someone else.
In this time, let’s not forsake the arts and humanities. They are, after all, what make us human.