I’m passionate about politics. This year, however, my dearest friend told me she just didn’t want to hear anything about it. Can’t say I blame her. I’m scared witless for the future of our country, but I understand how the cultural war we are now going through can be too much for many to bear until the time comes to vote.
So do I jump in or do I stay away? Both, I guess. With like-minded friends, I’ll say what I think. I sign petitions urging positions I feel passionate about and send emails to my State and Federal representatives. I even contributed to my candidate of choice this year, something I haven’t done since the 60s. On those rare occasions when I run into those who feel equally passionate about the other side, I tend to back off. First, I am pretty much of a pacifist. Second, I doubt I’d change their minds any more than they could change mine.
What this cultural war has also done, apart from the aforementioned fright, is make me take a closer look at my series. When I began the Prioress Eleanor/Brother Thomas books, I knew I had picked an historical period that had issues which might resonate today. Do I do an authorial rant? Do I shut up?
Once again, I do a little of both. No writer is without a point of view, a philosophy, or passions. Those probably make each generation more sensitive to certain similarities in history which is why each generation shines a light on history in different ways. That is good. It gives texture to the past. Where the line is crossed, however, is when a writer forgets that the events might be similar but the past response to them will be different.
Knowing that the politics surrounding abortion is a hot button topic, I apologize in advance, but that subject does make my point. Today we have pro-lifers and pro-choicers. In the Middle Ages, we had pro-lifers of which many looked the other way. Abortions were performed often and for a variety of reasons. People frequently sympathized with the woman, even though the procedure was not approved because of religious prohibitions. Natural miscarriages were common anyway so why not just express sorrow and look the other way? For a fiction writer, it doesn’t matter which side of the modern debate you belong to, you must understand how someone in the past could have an abortion, knowing it was not approved, and why those around, disapproving as they might be, could decide that nothing untoward had happened.
Point made so I will end by jumping into the present just once, and then I promised to step back.
Please vote in November. The fate of our democracy depends on that.