Upon hearing of the death of Gore Vidal, I had an immediate, almost visceral reaction, which I immortalized in Twitter form. That is the rhetoric of the age — immediate thoughts, put out in a form that was immediately visible for all to see. It was, in its way, the anthesis of Gore Vidal’s writing.
Still, I stand by it the next day, and will cheerfully reproduce it here:
I called the (inevitable) political cartoons of Vidal at the Pearly Gates inappropriate for two reasons: one, because Gore Vidal didn’t believe in Heaven. As with Christopher Reeve (an Atheist) and George Harrison (a Buddhist), there is something vaguely offensive of depicting Gore Vidal’s undergoing Heavenly judgment in an affectionate style. And two, because Vidal claimed Buckley was in Hell, and I have to believe if given the choice, he’d pursue him down there.
But, if there’s a Buckley knife fight. I’ll forgive them. More after the break.
I am not a Christian. I am also not a Conservative. I have opinions which are not held by neither the average Conservative Christian nor the average Christian Conservative. This is my right, even as they have the right to be Christian and Conservative.
However, I am also a writer. Right now, I’m writing a (I believe this is the term) fuck-ton of fiction.
I work very hard, both in terms of necessary research and in building writing skills, in making realistic, sympathetic Christians, Conservatives, Conservative Christians and Christian Conservatives in my stories. I have been dismissive before, and been rightly called on it. And I try to learn from my experiences. And, when I’m writing, I’m trying to reflect the world and nation I live in — in particular, a nation where forty percent describe themselves as conservative or very conservative and (as of 2008) seventy-six percent describe themselves under the very broad rubric of Christian.
I have very little interest in making forty percent of the characters in my stories one dimensional strawmen. I have even less interest in making seventy-six percent of the characters in my book intolerant ideologues. And when I write about those forty or seventy-six percent, I would like to do so accurately.
Why? Well, one seminal Christian principle, which is common to many other religions, is summed up in two verses. Matthew 7:12 (Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets) and Luke 6:31: (And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.) I would like my own philosophy, ethics, beliefs and principles to be represented well in the fiction of others. Further, I would like a character modeled on myself to have nuance and depth, being more than a mouthpiece for an overly simplistic interpretation of what someone on the other side of the aisle thinks about Liberals or Agnostics. The only way I know to encourage that is to live by it.
And if it doesn’t happen? If my ilk are characterized… well, as ideologues of any political or philosophical bent often characterize those different than themselves? Hey, at least one of the two of us will write with the empathy and compassion mandated by Scripture, right?