Spring 2009

Everything’s Political

Victor D. Infante, Editor in Chief

Photo by Sara Egner

As the editor of The November 3rd Club, the conversation I most frequently have, aside from being asked “why November 3rd?” (it’s the day after G.W. Bush was re-elected) is with writers telling me that they don’t have any political writing. To which, with varying degrees of gentleness depending on my patience that particular day, I’m forced to cry bullshit.

Unless a writer is living in a cocoon — and I’m sure some are — I find it difficult to believe that a writer worth his or her salt has written nothing that could be considered political. Most often, after some prodding, I find that they mean overtly political, but really, that’s only the barest scratch at political literature’s surface.

The problem is that we’re soaking in politics. When I go to the gas pump to fill up my aging Ford Escort, there are any number of political factors at play: U.S. foreign policy effects the price of the day, I drive an American car that was built by a worker who’s probably now facing a layoff, if they haven’t been already; I can’t afford a new car, let alone the more environmentally friendly one I really want. And so on…

No, everything is political, in some way or another. When I come home from my job and hug my wife, there’s an implicit fact that A.) I have a job to come home from, and B.) I’m allowed to be married to the person I love. This is not true for a lot of people, and I’m cognizant of those facts. I’m lucky, and thankful for it.

In one conversation with a writer, I pointed out that much poetry is laced with observations suffering, inequality,  intolerance, and all of these things are political, but that we see them somehow as something separate. These are the deep politics of a country, the pain between us all that’s so omnipresent that we can barely see it anymore. As they don’t much shift on the whims of an electorate, it’s easy to not consider them political. But they are, and far more powerful and compelling than the day-to-day sausage making that is the economic bailout. Not that that’s not important, too. But you follow my meaning.

Even language itself is political, and if you don’t believe that, talk to the people constantly lobbying to amend the Constitution to make English the U.S.’s official language. But on a smaller, more insidious scale, consider the difference between calling the wars abroad a “War on Terror” to an “Overseas Contingency Operation.” The first was the Bush administration’s attempt to infuse the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with some sort of moral urgency, the latter is the Obama administration’s attempt to diffuse that. There are arguments for and against each tactic, but nonetheless, there you are: even the very act of what you call something is a political act.

So, no. I don’t believe any writer is apolitical, although some will argue that point with me to their last breaths. Sometimes that comes from a disdain of politics – they wish to focus on something “real,” as one once told me. In others, it’s a fear of upsetting a delicate marketplace. After all, the book buying crowd is easily startled.

Or maybe I’m overly cynical. Maybe there are things in this world free from politics’ taint. But I doubt it. after all, even the wind itself needs to be harnessed to become energy, soon.