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the evolution of disillusionment

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the evolution of disillusionment

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I think I was fourteen or fifteen the day when, upon finishing Ender's Game for the first time, I staggered downstairs to tell the world (where world = immediate family), wrapped in a blanket and a state of shock. That book was an epiphany for me, reaching places in me that are seldom touched; honestly, I don't even know how to rope that experience any more tightly than I have with these vaguely descriptive words.

Since then, I've read and loved most of Orson Scott Card's fiction, and when I found out about his home on the internet, I was quite happy. He put non-fiction there: thoughtful advice for aspiring writers, and in 2001 he also started posting a column that he writes for his local newspaper. I could get to know some of the behind-the-scenes thoughts of a writer whose work I always found intelligent but approachable. It was all-around swell.

Some idylls are only short-term.

After 9/11, though, OSC started posting another column, "World Watch", on a site called The Ornery American. I did not find this column to be nearly as swell as the folksy "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything". He was letting his politics show, and I found I did not agree with much he had to say. That was ok, though. I didn't have to agree with him to enjoy his artistic output, right? It didn't matter to Ender and Bean that OSC himself was for several conflicts that they, military geniuses that they are, would be against (if only they could hold their own opinions), IMO. It didn't make any difference to Alvin Maker that his creator is pro-Bush. So I thought.

Part of the reason I was able to overlook these things was that, while I disagreed with him in principle on a lot of the issues he discussed, I only had general ideas about them, rather than personally reasoned opinions. I'm not proud of it, but I also won't deny it: after a very limited exposure, some kinds of political discussion start flowing right over, past and through me. I feel that it's a failing of mine, because I do believe that intelligent adults have a responsibility to educate themselves about the issues of modern life... but this isn't about self-chastisement; the reason it is at issue right now is that that mental shutdown made me unable to process Card's arguments well enough to refute them as I felt they should be. I let it go, and my enjoyment of his work continued unhindered.

Then, a year or so ago, the subject of OSC came up at an EH party. polyfrog told an anecdote about a group with which he was involved (in some way; I forget the details) that had been considering asking Card to speak. He was voted down as a choice because of his coming out against gay marriage. That was the first I'd heard of his holding that stance, but I've since read the essay in question. It's awful.

This issue is one with which I can better connect than a lot of the other political issues he had discussed, and that deeper clarity made my problems with Card's rhetoric stand out in greater relief for me. I know I have a decent grasp of the issues, as seen from both sides, but it's still difficult for me to parse what Card is saying because of the way he's arguing. There's skullduggery afoot, and it's distressing, because he's shown himself, in his books, to be capable of creating complete and well-reasoned arguments. Seeing the intellectual trickery he used in the discussion about gay marriage made me sad, like I'd gotten the news that he was dead. From what I can see, at least part of his brain IS dead, and I'm in mourning. It's only exacerbated now that I've seen his take on oxymoronic asshatteryintelligent design.

The upshot is, yes, it does affect his characters; it affects how I feel about them. I wish it didn't, but it DOES.

This needs to be delved much deeper, but it's getting late, and I'm losing the ability to think just as I get to the intricate part of this issue. Instead of botching it, or staying up three hours past my bedtime trying to finish it, I will stop shortly, and hope to address the rest of the thought later. For now, I will just say that watching Orson Scott Card out himself as a... whatever he is... more and more thoroughly is cold and sad. The way I feel about him now reminds me of a particularly unhappy aspect of college life.

When I started school, I made some really cool friends, some older than I, but some were freshmen, like me. Some weeks into the semester came time to "rush", to try to be accepted by the "literary societies" (the local equivalent of sororities and fraternities). It may be a surprising thing for some to learn about me that I actually did this rushing thing - I was drawn by the literary aspect. A handful of my friends who were also fellow freshmen rushed along with me.

During the rushing process, I quickly realized that it was largely about social groupings, and that while the injection of literature raised these groups above the standard that movies have taught me about the fraternal organizations that existed elsewhere, and it truly enriched the lives of some boys and girls, it would have been a step (or twelve) down for me in terms of literary awareness. I knew early on that I was not going to join any such thing. I simply enjoyed the socializing aspect of rushing while it lasted, and didn't even bother to show up for the choosing ceremony (whatever cute name that had - I have long since forgotten) to see which if any had chosen me. It seemed completely trivial to me.

I was surprised by several of my friends' decisions to join societies. I was startled to realize that those people had found faux familial feelings in their newly formed connections. I was hurt to have some of those budding relationships snipped to death, because they needed to build ties with their new "siblings". I was appalled to discover in time that, just as the propaganda claims, you really can make a new person out of yourself when you go away to college. Several wonderfully quirky people with whom I was starting to form good friendships disappeared into these various amalgams of "US" - and when they emerged, they were... different. I'm sure they were happy; I was not able to be happy for them, though. I was distraught. I didn't understand why people I would like would choose such a thing for themselves. I found it creepy, to be honest; my friends were gone, so far as I could tell, and for what? To gain the right to live in a particular house, to hang with particular girls/boys, to be fraternally related with particular boys/girls? To be handed an identity that was completely outside anything they had been before, and fold themselves into it? That's all they gained, so far as I can tell - a feeling of belonging based entirely on an artificial construct. Oh, well, these days, being alums, they probably also get hit up for extra donations, too. Nice perk, if you can afford the boob job.

I understand it better now. I think a lot of people are desperately unhappy, and "sisterhood", however empty it seemed to me, filled holes in their lives that were causing them pain. The loss of one short-term oddball friend (yep, that's me!) could not even begin to stack up to what they gained from that.

Even so, my feelings are valid too. Those great people that I was just starting to get to know voluntarily self-destructed, by giving up self, and I was horrorstricken by the process. That's how I felt when my friends of a few months did it. I can't imagine what it would have been like if I'd gone to school with a childhood friend and had that happen.

So... I guess what I'm saying that OSC has joined the dumbass-conservative frat, and watching him line up for the I'm-an-old-guy-see-me-philosophize beer bong is making me nostalgic for my old friend, for the days when he was an original, or at least when I didn't know that he wasn't one.

Mmm, yeah, I think that analogy is sound.

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