The Left or the Right?

by johnathanknight

Consider the small world of speculative fiction, where the left currently reigns and the right huddles ragged, camped around a handful of giants.  Which side should I choose?  The left or the right, I wonder.

The left or the right.  Which side do we pick?  Where do we hang our hat and what news do we watch and which neighbor do we hate?  The left or the right.

It’s everywhere, isn’t it?  That choice, breathing on the back of your neck, demanding you pick a side and delineate yourself properly.  Maybe we try to ignore it.  Maybe we sit quietly at dinner, or limit our conversation to matters apolitical, if there’s even such a thing anymore now that “How’s the weather?” can trigger a global warming debate.

Maybe we smile politely at conventions while others talk venom, and maybe we pretend that we don’t secretly hate ourselves for not speaking.

And maybe they assume we agree, taking our silence for head nodding.  And then our blood pressure begins to spike, and that ear pounding starts–like the tolling of bells–and we wonder if the ringing isn’t really a call to arms, waking us from our mostly dormant sleep.

On the left we have Team Scalzi, and boy-oh-boy do they look pretty good from afar.  “Down with sexual harassment!” they chant, and I agree, cheering them on.  It doesn’t immediately occur to me how they’re all chanting as one, like some mad cult of glassy-eyed zealots.  Instead, I think, absolutely, sexual harassment is rotten.  I mean, only villains harass other folks sexually.  Only villains force-grope women in elevators or threaten to fire them for not putting out, so this is looking like it might be the side for me.

But Team Scalzi, they look at me sideways, and I can tell something’s wrong.  I’m not welcome here.  I don’t know what it is, but the room is cold like I’ve already done something wrong.  Still, they take my support for what it is–no less than their due–and commence with tolerating my presence.  Tolerating.  Not accepting or embracing or high-fiving up top.  Just tolerating.

Who cares though, right?  It doesn’t matter if they’re standoffish.  After all, we’re trying to put an end to sexual harassment here, not analyze each others social graces.  So I shrug and start paying attention to what’s going on, hoping I might somehow be a voice toward something positive.  Well, it’s not long before I see the crowd circling around the newest outrage to hit the scene, and it’s clear that the internet is about to be dropped on someone.

From the back of the crowd, on figurative tiptoes, I ask, “Who is it?”

Someone important, they tell me.  Someone big.

“What did he do?”

“Sexual harassment!”  The chorus on the left is loud and confident.  They wear their outrage in their CAP LOCKS, and the condemnation starts coming, blog after blog, tweet after tweet.

I read it all, but none of it answers my question.  “But seriously.  What did he do?  I mean specifically?”

Turns out, no one knows.  Oh, a handful of them claim to, but they’re not talking, and it’s not about specifics, they say.  It’s about warning everyone, about making sure no one’s vulnerable in the sexual harasser’s presence again, about instituting new policies, about . . . what?  About what, I wonder, because none of this is making any sense.  A man’s life and reputation has been ruined on hearsay, and the left is foaming at the mouth for more.

So I question, and the more I question, the more I’m ostracized.  I’m told that the only worthwhile definition of harassment comes from the victim of harassment.  I’m told that a man offering to buy a woman a drink in a bar is sexual harassment.  I’m told that it’s not my place to judge the severity of someone else’s pain.  And I keep thinking, a man’s life and reputation has been ruined on hearsay.

I don’t know.  Maybe he’s guilty.  But we all deserve a trial–don’t we?–and there’s a reason everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  That’s the country I grew up in.  That’s the world as I know it, but somewhere along the way I fell asleep.  And the world, well, it went batshit crazy.

This is now a world where white privilege means you’re racist, regardless of your actions or the content of your character.  This is a world where a nonprofit organization designed to help writers kicks one out for being both ideologically different and outspoken.  This is a world where emotion trumps reason.  Where honest and open conversation is unwelcome.  Where it’s more common to misrepresent your opponent’s point than it is to address it.  This is a world where I don’t belong.

So I look now to the right, and I see a few bastions standing against the thought police on the left.  These are the Correia’s, the Vox Day’s, the Torgersen’s, and I find myself suddenly a little less alone.  These people make sense.  They’re open to disagreement, and–contrary to messages from the left–they seem to have zero intentions of giving puppies cancer.

And now it occurs to me: the truly divisive faction is on the left.  I believe in diversity and tolerance.  I believe that racism is bad, and I’m against sexism.  But I also believe in the freedom of speech and defending the rights of folks I happen to disagree with.  The left has turned into the very thing it fought against.  It actively seeks to suppress thoughts and ideas.

So long as this is the case, everywhere is war.