I like Orson Scott Card. And I owe him. Many years ago, he taught an undergrad playwriting class at BYU; as a student in that class, I learned a lot, probably more than from any other playwriting teacher I ever studied with. I wrote a play for that class which he championed, and which was eventually produced. I am a playwright today largely because of OSC. I wouldn’t say we’re friends, exactly–as writers, he’s way up there, and I’m way down here–but I know him, like him, and enjoy his writing. Can’t wait to see Ender’s Game, for example.
And I will see Ender’s Game. OSC and I, uh, differ politically. Nowhere do we differ more than in the politics of gay marriage. But I do know him well enough to defend him against the charge of homophobia. He finds himself, I think, in that gray area occupied by a lot of Mormons, who have gay friends and gay family members, and feel conflicted by a Church policy they nonetheless feel they need to defend. I get where he’s coming from, while disagreeing pretty strenuously, and I do not plan to join the boycott against the film.
I also think that all of us who care about the United States and are worried about the future, patriots on the Right and Left, people who care a lot about politics and who write about it, have an occasional tendency to fly off the handle and write things we end up wishing we hadn’t written. I thought about this yesterday when I read a blog post from OSC, dated May 9, titled ‘Unlikely Events.’ It went viral yesterday, which is when I learned of it. A friend of mine called it ‘the post where OSC writes the script for the next Jon McNaughton painting,’ which about captures it. Here’s the link: enjoy.
Obama the dictator. Michelle Obama as a Lurleen Wallace, a figurehead President to circumvent the 22nd Amendment. A laundry list of Tea Party/Conservative laments about this President. A ‘national police force’ of inner city hooligans. Reading it was dispiriting. I wanted to lament, like Ophelia, “O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown.”
The thing is, I’ve done this too, harbored the same fantasy. When George W. Bush’s Presidency was nearing the end of its first term, I fantasized that even if John Kerry won the election, Bush wouldn’t surrender power. That he would use the ‘war on terror’ as a pretext to declare martial law. And what would we do then! Boy, would the Constitution ever hang by a thread then!
But I was wrong. Completely, unmistakably, utterly wrong. Turns out that George W. Bush was a politician I disagreed with. That’s it. That’s all. Not a monster, not a buffoon, not a tyrant, not a fool, not a despot. A patriot, a man with limitations like all men, who tried his best to protect and serve our country, and who made some serious mistakes along the way, inevitably, but who did some good things too.
That’s who Barack Obama is. And I think in his saner moments, OSC will admit that he’s overstating things a tad, that the President is, drumroll please, just a politician he disagrees with. Not a tyrant and not a fool.
Back when I was in grad school, I remember studying the theatrical theories of Richard Wagner. Later, I taught Wagner to grad students of my own. Great composer of course, and also a genuine theatrical innovator. And a man with political ideas that were both silly and dangerous. Ideology blinds us. I don’t think of myself a particularly doctrinaire liberal; I try at least to be reasonable and to listen to those who disagree with me. But when I’m wrong (and I’m often wrong), it’s because I let a set of doctrines define me, instead of evidence and reason. And, of course, the idea that any of us are objective and rational and completely without prejudice is a chimera. We’re all products of culture.
Having said that, I suppose I should point out how, specifically, OSC is wrong. But lest I be called a witless Obama sycophant or something, let me point out that I have, on this blog, called for Obama’s impeachment, for drone warfare conducted against American citizens without due process. I have serious misgivings about some of the policies of this President. I also am willing to defend strongly others of his policies. I don’t think the ACA is a stellar piece of legislation, but I think it’ll work pretty well, and it beats the status quo. I think the President is right sometimes, and I think he’s wrong sometimes, like all the other Presidents. I do think, though, that OSC’s rant is seriously fact-free. It’s just the usual, dull, Fox News/Breitbart argle-blargle. Frankly, it’s silly. And with all due respect, we need to call him on it. OSC is a fine writer, a genuinely interesting sci-fi/fantasy author. He’s not an interesting political thinker.
“Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator. He hates the very idea of compromise; he demonizes his critics and despises even his own toadies in the liberal press. He circumvented Congress as soon as he got into office by appointing “czars” who didn’t need Senate approval. His own party hasn’t passed a budget ever in the Senate.“
Nonsense, nonsense and more nonsense. Every President has had advisors; calling them czars is a media thing. Jimmy Carter had czars, so did both Bushes, so did Reagan. Obama does respond when attacked–I guess that’s what‘s meant by ‘demonizes critics.’ His critics on the Left (I am one) think he’s much much too willing to compromise, eager to, in fact. He’s spent most of the last three years calling for, and working for ‘a grand bargain,’ a comprehensive budget bill. As for not passing a budget, he’s done his job–he’s proposed budgets. Every year. Not his fault if an ideologically divided Congress can’t/won’t pass ’em.
“In other words, Obama already acts as if the Constitution were just for show. Like Augustus, he pretends to govern within its framework, but in fact he treats it with contempt.”
Uh, he’s an expert in Constitutional law. Taught it at the University of Chicago law school. And I wasn’t aware Caesar Augustus ever consulted the US constitution. I will concede, though, that OSC knows more about time travel than I do.
“In his years as president, the national media have never challenged Obama on anything. His lies and mistakes are unreported or quickly forgotten or explicitly denied; his critics are demonized.”
Oh, please. The last three months have seen the national media go completely wild on various ‘scandals’ that turned out, on further examination, to be substance-less. What a silly allegation.
“He has never had to work for a living,”
So ‘law school professor isn’t a real job?’
“He has never had to struggle to accomplish goals.”
Poor kid from a fractured family becomes law review editor, law school professor, US Senator and President of the United States?
“He despises ordinary people”
Like his grandparents, his mom, everyone he ever grew up with?
“Is hostile to any religion that doesn’t have Obama as its deity”
Uh, wasn’t he attacked earlier because he was TOO CLOSE to Reverent Wright, his Chicago pastor? Because he believed TOO MUCH in Reverent Wright‘s sermons? Which is it? Atheist, or wacko religious extremist?
“And his contempt for the military is complete.”
He uses drones precisely because they will put fewer soldiers in harm‘s way. I think the use of drones is strategically and morally wrong, but he doesn’t use them because of some imagined contempt for the military. In fact the evidence for Obama’s contempt for common people, or the military, or the media, is. . . wait for it. . . (crickets). . . . nope, nothing there.
Which is the problem here. OSC engages in a rant, an attack, an attempt at political analysis that is nothing but unsupported allegations, assertions without any supporting evidence whatsoever. It‘s truly unfortunate.