I’m currently reading Ron Chernow’s bio of Alexander Hamilton and it proves how prescient some of the framers were. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison were at the Constitutional Convention and, as the authors of the Federalist Papers, were the chief defenders of the ultimate social contract. In the conflicts they saw around the 13 fledgling states, in the Continental Army mutiny that forced Congress to flee Philadelphia, they foresaw everything we’re dealing with now.
Other so-called framers, (status based on signing the Declaration of Independence or the Articles of Confederation or serving as on the Continental Congress) were far less sanguine. Thomas Jefferson, (the man who penned We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal…) and Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry were FAR more worried for their rights to keep slaves. I cannot quote Henry’s actual words. His statement is too offensive.
In truth, I only cite the anti-Constitutionalists to illustrate the threat that Hamilton, Jay, and Madison perceived and sought to counter with a sacred document, a contract between leaders and the people who chose them.
Without a strong federal government states fall to petty fiefdoms of corruption. Ironic considering that New York Governor George Clinton accused Hamilton, (but not Jay or Madison) of aristocratic ambitions. Without a federal government made up of, and held accountable by, constituents from across the country, the people are at the mercy of regional hookups or pay-to-play access. Meaning, in a crisis, the common people, without familial or financial access to power, suffer and ultimately turn to factions or mob rule.
This is what Texas Republicans toy with when they play at secession and deregulation. Abbott can’t keep the lights on, can’t reliably keep the water safe to drink and he knows it, but posturing at TEXAS INDEPENDENCE plays well with the rabble. Even after his deregulation policies resulted in catastrophic industrial disasters including an explosion in West, Texas that resulted in 15 deaths and 200 injuries.
“The mark of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle
While I did warn there would be politics on the blog, there is also a lesson here for writers. It is perfectly acceptable to assign a philosophy or viewpoint to a character that is different from your own. Often, it is necessary for the sake of the story. However, you cannot credibly do so without working that idea to its logical conclusion.
In Firefly Joss Whedon writes characters on the losing side of a war. Whedon’s inspiration (paraphrased from his statements in an interview) was reading Michael Shaara’s historical novel, The Killer Angels about the three-day battle of Gettysberg. He envisioned the vanquished champions of a lost cause. Whedon thought the idea through enough to qualify it “without the horrors of slavery.” But not enough understand that the central focus of the fabled “lost cause,” was the confederacy’s bedrock, hewn from slavery and genocide. He also ignored the net effect of the fabled “lost cause,” (confederate statuary, another outbreak of the klan like a crowd disease, another generation indoctrinated in lies) that we continue to pay for today. Read Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels for full impact of the “lost cause,” myth.
Rather, Whedon simply composes a trite conflict hinged on individual liberty and central-authority oppression. By contrast authors James S.A. Corey (aka Abraham and Franck) explore the logical progression of an unchecked central authority and unrepresented colonies in The Expanse books and TV series—without turning it into The Dukes of Hazzard in space.
You have a racist/homophobic/misogynist protagonist or antagonist? Great. You better take the reader right along with that bigot on his/her journey to a logical conclusion: evolution or stunted socialization. Anything else is flat writing, (at best) or, more likely, agenda writing, (perceived or actual). No one expects (or necessarily wants) an ABC Afterschool Special on bigotry in your fantasy/sci-fi book. But nobody wants The Turner Diaries, either.
Now, I don’t think that the (supposed) leadership in Texas seriously intends to secede. Nor do I believe that they’re cross-burning klansmen. But as Texas continues to trend more brown/black/other and less white, I do believe that the white-male-conservative party here intends to stoke the regional pride and maybe, maybe, maybe get a little extra tailwind from racist-ish code speak.
“We are what we pretend to be…” Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
They think it’s harmless, (to them) and that they can control it. But as Kerouac and Tolkien and Burgess found to their frustration, once the story is in the hands/minds of the consumer the intent is easily blurred if not twisted. As much as every word we use must be thought out, so must every idea. Fiction has consequences.
Photo at the top: Hurricane Ike approaching the Texas coast on September 12, 2008 as a Category 2 hurricane by NASA. Public domain use and details, here.