Why yes, fiction writers should write about politics, if they choose to. And so should doctors and plumbers and garbage collectors and lawyers and teachers and chefs and scientists and truck drivers and stay-at-home parents and the unemployed. In fact, every single adult who has reason enough to sit down and express an opinion through words should feel free to do just that. Having a citizenry that is engaged in the actual working of democracy matters to the democracy, and writing about politics is a fine way to provide evidence that one is actually thinking about these things.As a teacher, I have felt rather constrained by the nature of my profession. It has been drilled into my head from my earliest days on the job that there are just certain things that one does not discuss at length in the hearing of students or their parents: religion, one's personal opinions of certain school/community leaders, and politics of course. I have taken that to heart for the most part; I keep my personal life (including this blog) as far apart from my professional one as I can manage.
However, Scalzi is right (and how I wish he wasn't joking about preferring my beloved Vols over UGA...) in that when it comes to matters of import, why are people being reticent in declaring their preferences? I'm not exactly constrained by the Hatch Act, but there is that sense that I shouldn't be prosetlyzing when lecturing about the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th century. I'm not shying away from talking about the perniciousness of racism and nativism, for example, but yet when it comes to coming out and stating directly that I prefer the politics of Eugene Debs over that of James Blaine, I hesitate.
Could it be it's a worry that what I say might just lead to my dismissal, since I don't have tenure? Perhaps, since I do recall quite well being chewed out by an assistant principal my first year of teaching 9 years ago, all because I noted that some people have argued that the 4th Amendment's strictures on searches and seizures have been stretched to the breaking point; apparently I was being "anti-cop" and one student's father is a state trooper and they were upset that I would "imply" that he was "bad" or "not doing his job." I believe there was even a hint that I might not be rehired if I said anything else like that again. I resigned that position the following year and moved to another state to get away from that small town political atmosphere.
But yet it is something that looms over the heads of many teachers. We are held to a different standard. Joe Schlomo can spout out whatever he pleases about Obama or McCain (often with various slurs mixed in), but teachers are expected to shut our yaps and "learn them well." It is much easier to state one's opinions when one's job is not potentially on the line. But I am learning how to skirt around this a bit.
That being said, the Debs comment ought to be a hint about my political persuasions, even if I will rarely say it out loud. Nice to see Michael Palin is up there with McCain in contesting for second place, though...