Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A Novelist's Take... Politics, Trump and the Presidential Race (Part I)

My apologies for not posting these past three weeks. CITY OF SLAVES is about to be released (April 6th) and I've been working diligently to ensure that everything goes smoothly. The writing side is one thing, but I'm a rookie when it comes to publishing. So thank you for your patience.

Over the next two weeks, I'll be posting a few blogs regarding current headlines. The easiest way to do this is the form of an interview with questions people have asked me on social media or questions that I would ask some of my favourite novelists. (My next blog will deal with current events in the sports world)

Q) Before I ask you about your view of the current political climate in the United States, you insisted on suggesting that you're answering these questions as a novelist. Why?

A) Because I've come to realize that my work influences my view, enough that it needs to be understood, if not clearly stated. Artists, as a rule, view the world through a different lens. They are humanity's great observers, if only because their work only matters when they're commenting on what they see. As a novelist, which is a very long art form, my view tends towards depth. And what it means in greater context. That doesn't mean I don't react when a presidential candidate like Trump makes a penis joke -- everyone reacts to that -- but it doesn't narrow the distance between what I see and how I perceive the election.

Q) You've stated your political tendencies, or at least suggested them, in the past. You have described yourself as a progressive. Does this hinder your ability to comment on what's happening in the Republican Party right now?

A) Well, I'm a Canadian first, so my commentary means little in the way of voting. As to a progressive commenting on the GOP, which have become a party of extremists, with perhaps the exceptions of people like (gulp) Jeb Bush and John Kasich, it is not only viable, but necessary.

Look, I understand the appeal of Donald Trump. He's outrageous, funny, and completely unpredictable. There's a reason he was a reality TV star. But he's also a misogynist, racist xenophobe. The comments he's made regarding Muslims and illegal immigrants are completely unacceptable and downright coarse. He has lowered the level of discourse. Worse, there are examples of schools and children, perhaps after listening to their parents glowingly talk about him, using him as a reason to bully other students with minority backgrounds.

If anything, this IS a progressive issue. Suggesting that a female reporter was "on her period" as a reason for his reactions during a debate are unconscionable. Ten years ago, such a comment would have been decried by both parties. It feels like we are taking a step backwards. And so yes, commentary by progressives is necessary.

Q) We have heard that from other progressives. But how does being a novelist alter your opinion? Or does it?

A) I write fantasy, which is basically like writing historical fiction on steroids. Most fantasists, myself included, use alternative worlds to comment on what is wrong in our society what we can do to change it. (While entertaining the reader, of course)

Everyone has seen the memes comparing Trump to Hitler, which sound outlandish until you start to dig. But as a novelist, the wide view goes much deeper. History is not linear. Progression of equality and civil rights do not move up a ladder. There are plenty of examples in history of countries and civilizations moving backwards.

Two thousand years ago it was acceptable for Egyptian women to initiate a divorce with their husband. They were also allowed to own land. During that same time, the Romans allowed no woman to speak with any influence outside the household. As we know, the Romans conquered Egypt. Their patriarchal view of society was the staple of European life for more than seventeen hundred years. And it was only until the last century that once again women were allowed to vote and hold land and not be subject to their husband or father.

Q) That seems like quite a stretch for this year's election. No one is advocating that women lose their ability to vote.

A) Again, a novelist takes a long view. Simply to have a presidential candidate suggest a woman's period as a reason for her supposed incompetence is significant. Rights are only rights because people fought for them, but they can be lost just as easily.

Look at Egypt now. With the movement towards Islamic fundamentalism in the early part of the 20th Century, those same people, who two thousand years ago offered a society that valued equality, was forced to undergo riots and recorded insults from Egyptian men telling them to "get back into the kitchen."

One step down the ladder is a big step, because it's harder to go up then down.

Q) Why are American politics so important to a Canadian novelist?

A) In Canada, like every other G-8 country, we offer free health care. This would seem to be a basic right. In the US, it isn't. And whether we like it or not, Americans dominate the media due to their size and influence. The US also happens to be our biggest trading partner and our best friend. About 70% of Canada's population lives with five hundred miles of the American border, and their economy drastically impacts our own.

More than that, however, is the possibility that such a culture presents. Let's say Bernie Sanders miraculously won the presidency. Republicans like to suggest he's a "radical," but his message is essentially a proposition to run the country the way Canada and other G-8 countries like Sweden and Norway operate. Countries that focus on equality and lowering income disparity. That would be important for any progressive! And what a platform he'd have to spread that to the rest of the world!

Now consider if someone like Trump, or Cruz, are elected. Their extreme conservatism would set the docket for equality back light years. Both believe in the Military Industrial Complex that has trapped the American economy for years and neither would be interested in setting equality, whether its between classes or gender or race or sexuality, as a top priority.

Q) I would ask you about Canadian politics, but you seem more invested in the presidential election. Is that true?

A) Yes. For now. I like to take a wait-and-see approach to our current governing party. Conservatives love to slam Prime Minister Trudeau, but lets check back in a year and see what he's done or what he's failed to do.

Q) Do you have a prediction for who wins the presidential election?

A) I think Clinton will win. Sanders is going to damage her, but he'll also push her left, which is a good thing. Trump is going to win the Republican nod, and I just think there are too many Americans who are too scared to elect him. His unpredictability is amusing, but it wouldn't be amusing as a leader. I do think the race will be closer than people think, however. Clinton is a polarizing figure. I would love to see Sanders win, but I don't see that happening.