Keep Politics Out of It? Couldn’t if I Wanted

It’s something you’ll hear about genre fiction these days — or even about an author or musician or some other art form that asks people to buy the result of that art:

“Can’t you just keep politics out of it?”

I can’t, and I won’t. For several reasons, but before I get to those, let me make one incredibly salient point regarding the leave-politics-out-of-it sentiment: it is dripping with privilege.clean

If you’re in a position where you can ignore politics and the way they affect things, that likely means you’ve never been targeted by or are largely immune from the aftereffects of politics. Historically, that means you’re white, male, straight, and/or a specific type of Christian (hint: it’s not the love-thy-neighbor type).

If you’re some combination of the above traits, you’ve likely been spared much of the worst politics has to offer. Countless people do not have the luxury to just ignore politics; for them, politics can mean life and death.

If you think that’s hyperbole, you’re not paying attention.

Now, with that out of the way… art — be it painting or sculpture or writing or whatever — is often a window through which we examine and comment on life and society. That means, inevitably, that art can and often will be political. Don’t let anyone tell you genre fiction in particular has always been apolitical (I pick genre fiction because that’s what I peddle in).

The dudebros who hate Brie Larson and the idea of a black Captain America and the mere hint of a Harley Quinn film where she’s not fawning all over Mistah J will have you think there was this utopia where comics and genre fiction were free from politics (this “utopia” was also almost exclusively white, male, and straight).

That is clearly, demonstrably wrong.

Genre fiction has always had political undertones, whether its audience saw them or not. The X-Men were an allegory for racism in the 1960s (and later evolved to represent other oppressed minorities, including the LGBT community). Superman was an alien come to America (created by two Jewish men). Wonder Woman was the original feminist superhero.

If we take fiction as a reflection of the world we live in, and not merely a way to escape said world, then it can’t help but be political — because like it or not, politics shape much of the world we live in. Ignoring that doesn’t make it less true.

Sometimes it’s covert. Sometimes it’s right in your face.

You see where I’m going with this?

More personally, I hear other authors tell me I should tone down my political opinions, lest I run the risk of alienating potential readers. I refuse, for a number of reasons:

I’m not just a writer. I’m a full-fledged person with opinions about the state of the country and the world — and I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a person and as an American citizen if I didn’t express those opinions (whether it be verbally, through donating to causes and candidates, or in the voting booth). My work does not rob me of my voice.

If I were to set aside my ideals in the interest of making just a little more money… well, then in a way, I’m no better than the greedy sycophant currently occupying the White House.

And to be perfectly frank, the people who would hate me for my political opinions wouldn’t like my work anyway. It represents everything they hate; it’s full of racial and sexual diversity, with a big heaping plate of what they would call “SJW bullshit.” So even if they did give me their money, they wouldn’t enjoy the product.

As the late Kurt Cobain once said, those aren’t the sort of people I want as fans anyway. He really did say that, on multiple occasions. And I feel the same way; if you’re the sort of person who looks at Donald Trump and those like him and you think that’s the sort of world we need to live in, pass me right on by. I don’t want or need your money.

So no, I will not keep politics out of it. Not out of the fiction I consume, not out of the fiction I create. I will not be silenced, I will not sit down. I will not allow my privilege to protect me; I will instead use it to fight for what’s right. My station as a writer, as a published author, has no bearing on my ability or willingness to use my voice to enact change.

And if that bothers you… well, that’s your issue, not mine.

 

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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

Why I Don’t Shy Away From Politics

I know a lot of authors keep their political opinions to themselves. I understand why they do this, and I do not begrudge them that choice. However, as those of you who follow me on Twitter (or hell, even those of you who actually read Behind the Badge) can tell, I’m not one of those writers.

But why?

Well… first of all, I’m not just a writer. I’m a fully-formed person with a wide variety of interests, passions, and opinions (this is the same reason every Sunday from February through November, my Twitter feed is one big ball of #NASCAR). And while I’m sure I have some followers who are only following J.D. Cunegan, the author, I’d imagine far more are following Jeff Cunningham, the person.

And part of that involves me having political opinions. Ones that need voicing, especially given the tumultuous and uncertain times in which we find ourselves (I mean, honestly, who saw that guy as president coming? I mean, other than The Simpsons). This isn’t just a case of “Oh, the president is from the other party.” I’ve already lived through three Republican presidents; that’s not really anything new.

But this guy is such a unique blend of ideologue, incompetence, and hatred that I can’t help but speak out. To sit back in silence… I can’t fathom that. Not with all of the existential threats the Crusty Cheeto represents. This isn’t just a case of disagreeing with the other side; this is the fact that the other side represents a clear and present danger to everything we claim to hold dear about this country.

I mean, seriously… Russia? The 1980s called to remind everyone the Cold War’s over.

Not only that, but there are policy battles going on that affect me — not just me as a whole, but me as a self-published author specifically. The tax plan currently being bandied about has a lot of really bad shit in it, especially for the self-employed (which self-published authors are, at least in the IRS’ eyes).

Oh, and net neutrality? I use the Internet to publish and sell my work. I use social media to promote said work. If the Internet gets sold in tiers or any of the other possibilities, it could affect my bottom line, as well as the bottom line of every other self- and independently-published author.

Not to mention… I feel like, if you read my books, you already have an idea of where I stand politically. And I don’t just mean Behind the Badge (which was far more overt than my fiction normally gets); the fact that I take great pains in making sure my fiction is racially and sexually diverse should tip readers off where I stand on the political spectrum.

So if you read my work, but get mad if I’m mean to Trump on Twitter… are you really paying attention? Besides, every time someone argues that I’m losing readers when I make a political post… the people who would get that upset over my political opinions aren’t people I want reading my work in the first place.

As for Behind the Badge… I wrote that book because a) racially-motivated police brutality is as relevant a political topic as we have today, and b) it was important for me to examine how Jill would react to such a case (and for the record, she responded exactly as I thought she would… except for the end of the book).

Part of the reason I write these books is the fact that I look at the world around me and it’s not what I was told it is growing up. Peace and justice and equality and all that are not realities, so in some ways, I find myself turning to fiction — genre fiction, specifically — to fill the gap. The real world isn’t what it’s supposed to be, but maybe by crafting Jill’s world, I can fulfill that promise in my own little way.

Real-world heroes disappoint. Hopefully, my heroes don’t.

Like I said, I get why some writers keep their yaps shut when it comes to politics. It’s not that different than the old Michael Jordan quote about how “Republicans buy sneakers too.” But I feel like I’d be doing my readers, my fans, a disservice if I didn’t let them see the complete me. And if my political views turn them away… well, no real loss, to be perfectly honest.

Notna is now available! Get your copy: Paperback | Amazon | Universal ebook Link (Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Indigo, Angus & Robinson)

Behind the Mask is now available! Get your copy: Kindle | Paperback | Universal ebook Link(Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, 24 Symbols, Indigo, Angus & Robinson)

About J.D. Cunegan

J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.