This morning, a tweet from a British comic book writer floated across my Twitter feed. He wrote (and I’m paraphrasing here):
Sorry about the flurry of political tweets. I’ll get back to light stuff—comics, games, graphic novels—when the world is no longer on fire.
Oh, boy, do I understand how he feels. I’ve been there. I am there for a variety of reasons.
But I’m going to disagree with him—on a couple of things.
First, the apology for the political tweets. If you feel the need to speak out on social media, it will impact your brand (both negatively and positively). Accept that. Then speak out and don’t apologize.
Second, the phrase “light stuff” concerning his art. Implying that what he does—what all of us do—is unimportant.
Or as another writer, an American this time, put it on Facebook a few days ago, (again, paraphrasing) sure is hard to write when the house you live in is tearing up its own foundation.
Yes, it is.
And still, you must write.
People need your art, now more than ever.
. . . .
I learned this lesson about art during 9/11. I was writing Thin Walls, a Smokey Dalton novel, set in Chicago in 1968—one of the most terrible years of the latter half of the 20th century. The novel deals with racism, and murder, and hatred, and love and family, all tied into one package in a Chicago neighborhood during that bleak December.
I had just hit the climax of the novel—my hero, about to confront the villain—when terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Another flight went down in a Pennsylvania field because the passengers rose up and prevented more deaths than their own.
Evidence of real heroism, more as the news continued to unfold.
And more horrors too. For a while, it truly felt like the world was on fire, at least from a perspective inside this country.
(And, frankly, I never again want to wake up to these words coming out of my radio: …the fires at the Pentagon are still burning out of control…)
I have a vivid memory of standing in my kitchen, looking at the television, and stepping outside of myself, realizing that the government we have—the world we all have—is a consensus, something we all agree to. That it is as fine and as thin as paper, and it’s only as good as the people who are willing to uphold its ideals, laws, and values.
That realization terrified me as much as the events of the day. Because it became clear to me what shaky ground we were all on, we had always been on. Until that moment in September, 2001, I had been immersed in 1968, another time when it felt like the world was becoming unmoored, and I knew that these moments came about—for the world, for individual countries, for states, for neighborhoods, and for us individually.
I couldn’t get back to my novel. I felt it unimportant—light stuff. It didn’t matter, not like running into a burning building mattered to save people covered in dust and ash, not like jumping terrorists on a plane and sacrificing your life to save others.
. . . .
The night of September 11, when I knew that friends and family had survived, I turned off the news. Dean and I watched some fluffy crap on cable TV. Later that week, after trying to go back to the books I had been reading, I started the Harry Potter series—and allowed myself time to go somewhere else, because I couldn’t stay here. I would break if I stayed here.
And that was when I had my epiphany. I realized that escape is rest. It’s important. It gets us away from the horrors, the terrible things, the stresses and upsetting moments of every day life.
Sometimes, art provides a different perspective, a new way of thinking about important things. And sometimes, we just hang out with a little boy wizard fighting a big powerful evil because it entertains us.
This is not light stuff. It is not unimportant. It is extremely important.
UPDATE: PG is sorry to remove/shut off comments, but he has tried to keep TPV separated from the politics surrounding the recent election, an island of comity in the midst of the storm if you will.