Monday, April 14, 2008
Missing the Message
Last night I heard from an old friend, an SF editor in NYC, to whom I'd sent the essay I read at Mythcon. I've been wanting to market it, but I've gotten such mixed reactions that I was alarmed. She had very mixed reactions, too, but she also gave me some very good revision suggestions.
In the essay, I talk about writing fantasy, and also about being Christian and how my faith motivates me to volunteer at the hospital. My friend (who's an atheist) felt offended by this material, which she interpreted as "preachy." She thought I should talk about volunteering without mentioning religion, since she and other people who aren't Christian volunteer too. My take on the issue is that I'm not saying what anyone else's motivations should be; I'm describing my own, and I'd be false to myself if I falsified that. But, I told her, the comment was helpful, because it suggests that I should send the essay to a faith-friendly publication.
She wrote back, asking anxiously if a faith-friendly publication would be open to fantasy.
To which I responded, laughing aloud as I typed, "I write fantasy, and I'm Christian!" She apologized, but pointed out that her initial reaction showed how many people automatically equate Christianity with narrow-minded literalism, thanks to the Christian Right. I told her that one of my reasons for identifying publically as Christian is to try to help change that perception. Yes, the Christian Left exists. We're really out here.
And then, today, my car was vandalized.
I've talked here before about my bumper stickers, which read CHRISTIAN, NOT CLOSED-MINDED and FEMINISM IS THE RADICAL NOTION THAT WOMEN ARE PEOPLE. I also have a Planet Earth decal on my car.
While I was teaching today, someone took a red magic marker and crossed out the "NOT" on the first bumper sticker.
When I saw it, I felt ill. Someone who didn't even know me just assumed that I'm the opposite of what I profess to be. How closed-minded is that? Who's being intolerant here?
I got home and remembered that I have another bumper sticker that says, COMFORT THE DISTURBED, DISTURB THE COMFORTABLE. That's going over the old sticker. Meanwhile, I went to the wonderful Northern Sun site, home of progressive mottoes, and ordered a new NOT CLOSED-MINDED sticker, along with one that says JESUS IS A LIBERAL and another that says WE MUST BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD. I won't have room for all of those on my car, but if my bumper stickers keep getting vandalized, at least I'll have fresh ones.
I also e-mailed my editor friend about the incident. She wrote back, ruefully, "I’m afraid the right has been around so long and so loudly that it’s going to take a while for the rest of you to overcome the fear they instilled in the rest of us."
While that's certainly true -- it's the reason I put the Christian bumper sticker on my car in the first place -- I wonder if it applies in this instance. Surely the feminism sticker should have demonstrated that I am, indeed, left-leaning? The vandalism seems more like pure spite to me.
In any case, it left me feeling lousy, which was presumably the point.