A reader (John) disliked my recent post about the Trayvon Martin case, saying that my summaries are missing some key points. ‘Ugh,’ he begins! He says he enjoyed Dark Eden but doubts if he’ll read any of my other books, and he advises me to keep my opinions to myself:
I have never understand why athletes, public figures and those that depend on the support of a broad audience interject their political/cultural opinions into the public arena. They just anger 50% of people who may otherwise purchase their product.
Two things about this I found a bit depressing.
Firstly, the idea that I should conceal my views on politics and culture in order to get people to ‘purchase my product’, particularly since my ‘product’ itself deals with politics and culture. I find that a bit ‘ugh.’
Secondly, the idea that we should avoid the work of writers whose political or cultural views we disagree with. A book that hugely impressed me when I first read it as a teenager was Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the book about a libertarian lunar society whose motto was TANSTAAFL (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch). I didn’t agree then, and I don’t now, with Heinlein’s Tea Partyish politics, but it didn’t stop me appreciating, and wanting to emulate, the brilliance of the world-building.
One of the first accolades I received for Dark Eden was the book being selected as the ‘Big Read’ for the Greenbelt festival, and being asked to go there and give a talk about it. This is a Christian festival, and I made no secret of the fact that I am not a Christian, but people were still interested in what I had to say about the Eden story, even though it obviously meant very different things to them than it does to me. And God bless them for it!
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In fairness to John, though, when I look back at my post, I can see it is unbalanced. Clearly there was some kind of fight or scuffle between Trayvon and the man who shot him, and I can see that, given the bizarre context of a country where it is okay to carry a gun, it is possible to argue that self-defence was a factor in the shooting.
But why not also, then, in the case of Marissa Alexander, who fired a shot which didn’t even hit anyone? Of course I don’t know the detail of the cases, but I find it hard to imagine any additional detail that would justify a twenty year sentence in the latter case, if a complete acquittal was justified in the former.
There are many studies that show how, in predominantly white societies, the behaviour of black people is much more negatively connoted than the same behaviour by white people. Look at this video which compares the reactions of passers-by to a young white man who appears to be stealing a bike, and then to a young black man doing exactly the same.