October 4th, 2006

books

sex, religion and politics

There's a lot of political talk on my friends list. Most of it is well-reasoned and thoughtful. Though, of course, there are the occasional people who make wild claims in one direction or the other. I don't tend to talk about my politics except with close friends. Like many things in my life, I consider it a private area. Which is not to say that I don't live the life that exemplifies my beliefs. I try to do that every day. And I vote. As often as the opportunity is presented to me. Whether it's national or local.

I think everyone is entitled to their opinion. And I think everyone is entitled to reasonable debate of those opinions. As long as everyone respects each other's boundaries. Which brings me to something I was reading last night: the latest edition of the RWR (Romance Writers Report, the monthly publication of the RWA, for those as don't read it). In a stunning donation of space usually allocated for more columns and/or advertisements, there were 4 full pages devoted to Letters to the Editor. Why? Because even in a periodical devoted to writing, one of the many schisms that are apparently invading the philosophy of an entire nation, has reared its head.

A couple months back. a writer sent a rather inflammatory letter to the RWR concerning the definition of romance, which she felt should be confined to one-man, one-woman relationships. I've been trying to find a copy of the letter online because I don't want to type the whole thing in (or go hunting for that issue). Suffice to say that she linked homosexuality to pedophilia, among other things. And claimed that RWA should target its core audience of "college-educated, married, middle class, monogamous and moral" people. Apparently it's caused quite a ruckus. You can read here and here about it. The responding letters printed in this issue of the RWR are from a variety of people that includes New York Times Bestselling authors and charter members of the organization. A number of these letters cite the attempts to induce a reaction based in fear (e.g. here there be monsters) and the promotion of an us vs. them mentality.

Whatever my personal beliefs on the issue of romantic relationships might be, I'm choosing not to express them because what I think is more relevant here is that I have always thought of the written word, and particularly fiction, as a place where issues, social or otherwise, can be explored in a way that illuminates and informs. The exploration of ideas can be a method to bring meaning to the madness we call life. If we limit that investigation, on either a personal or societal level, are we then limiting ourselves? And shouldn't writing, and indeed other forms of art, be the opposite of limitation? Think about the first book you read that changed how you thought or felt. Or about the first time you saw a painting hanging in a gallery that opened up a new possibility of beauty. Regardless of whether one's beliefs stem from a religious text or a scientific paper, if we allow this kind of censorship, do we risk giving up those potential experiences?
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