I haven't had many heroes in my life; I just don't think that way. One of them, though, at one time, was Orson Scott Card.
His writing was immensely important to me as a teenager, and drove my own attempts at writing. I would read his stories for half an hour, then spend half an hour writing my own fiction, then another half hour reading his stuff. It was inspiring.
Later I was impressed by his Secular Humanist Revivals at science fiction conventions, and here is a description of one from the very time I was paying attention to Card:
Secular Humanist Revival Meeting
(Led by Orson Scott Card: 5PM)
This was fantastic! I could have kicked myself for missing the beginning of this for the boring panel instead. Card (a Mormon) led an old-fashioned revival-style meeting, not for fundamentalism, but for secular humanism. He packed the ballroom, even to people standing in the back, and kept us there for over an hour and a half, telling us the evils of the Meese Commission and other right-wing groups that want to limit our freedom of expression.
I can't possibly remember everything he said, but some things stick in my mind. Like "more people die in a week because of alcohol and tobacco than have died in the whole history of mankind from an overdose of beaver shots." And if prayers were returned to public schools and based on prevailing community standards, children in the South would be saying Baptist prayers, children in the Southwest would be saying Catholic prayers, and children in New York would be saying so many different prayers that they wouldn't have any time left for learning anything. And how on the one hand the fundamentalists claim "secular humanism" is a religion and should be taken out of schools and on the other hand want to put prayer back in. (I may be one of the few people I know old enough to remember prayer in public schools--it was in Bangor. Maine, in the 1950's and was the "Lord's Prayer"--Christian, of course.) Card also called for "Amens" and "Hallelujahs" as befits a revivalist and had us sing a secular humanist hymn which went something like "Rock of Ages, by the sea, worn away by entropy."
He talked about how the Meese Commission coerced the Southland Corporation ("7-11") to stop carrying Playboy et al. ("You should go in and tell them if they won't sell you Playboy they can keep their damn beer!") He contrasted this with the reaction of his publisher to a group that, shortly after Card spoke out against censorship, demanded they stop publishing him because he wrote "pornography." The publisher told the group to point out exactly what they thought was pornographic and that then they would talk to them. End of story.
People were also asked to "testify"--to write their names and favorite natural laws on pieces of paper that were handed out. Card then read a selection of these, with commentary. Some he had problems with, since they were abstruse mathematical or scientific concepts that he didn't understand. A sample of his commentary: "Joe Smith likes the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle...at least that's what I think it says." This was contrasted with two words that Card claimed would sound impossible together--like "bicycle sex" or "vegetable athletics." Actually, he said, the latter two he could understand but not ... "creation science."
Throughout the talk, he kept yelling, "Am I talking loud enough?" to which the audience would yell back, "Yes!" At the end he did this, and then responded to the "Yes!" with "No, I'm not!" He went on to point out that until these views were heard in the legislatures, and the courts, and everywhere, neither he nor anyone else was talking loud enough. And if all we did was to go home and say what a great show it was, then we deserved what we would get from the would-be censors et al. And he was right.
Later, though, I came to learn of Card's views on homosexuality:
Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.
The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity's ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.
In other words, Card feels he is tolerant because he only wants to jail enough of us to shut us up. When I came to understand this, one of my few heroes and fathers was dead to me, and I never read another book of his again. Not because I don't read the books of people I fundamentally disagree with (Gene Wolfe is another who I cannot agree withon many such issues but whom I read eagerly; however, he was never a father figure to me), but because Card had been such an important part of the formation of my mental self that I couldn't bear reading his words again out of a sense of betrayal.
And so it is I find myself quite surprised to be in total agreement with Card (a Democrat, by the way) on something. Only took 20 years, but:
This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.
It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.
What is a risky loan? It's a loan that the recipient is likely not to be able to repay.
The goal of this rule change was to help the poor — which especially would help members of minority groups. But how does it help these people to give them a loan that they can't repay? They get into a house, yes, but when they can't make the payments, they lose the house — along with their credit rating.
They end up worse off than before.
This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.
Furthermore, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were making political contributions to the very members of Congress who were allowing them to make irresponsible loans. (Though why quasi-federal agencies were allowed to do so baffles me. It's as if the Pentagon were allowed to contribute to the political campaigns of Congressmen who support increasing their budget.)...
I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. "Housing-gate," no doubt. Or "Fannie-gate."
Instead, it was Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, both Democrats, who denied that there were any problems, who refused Bush administration requests to set up a regulatory agency to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who were still pushing for these agencies to go even further in promoting sub-prime mortgage loans almost up to the minute they failed....
These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party...
And after Freddie Raines, the CEO of Fannie Mae who made $90 million while running it into the ground, was fired for his incompetence, one presidential candidate's campaign actually consulted him for advice on housing.
If that presidential candidate had been John McCain, you would have called it a major scandal and we would be getting stories in your paper every day about how incompetent and corrupt he was.
But instead, that candidate was Barack Obama, and so you have buried this story, and when the McCain campaign dared to call Raines an "adviser" to the Obama campaign — because that campaign had sought his advice — you actually let Obama's people get away with accusing McCain of lying, merely because Raines wasn't listed as an official adviser to the Obama campaign.
You would never tolerate such weasely nit-picking from a Republican....
Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.
But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie — that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad — even bad weather — on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.
If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth — even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.
Because that's what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences. That's what honesty means . That's how trust is earned.
Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time — and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing...
It's not too late. You know that if the situation were reversed, and the truth would damage McCain and help Obama, you would be moving heaven and earth to get the true story out there.
If you want to redeem your honor, you will swallow hard and make a list of all the stories you would print if it were McCain who had been getting money from Fannie Mae, McCain whose campaign had consulted with its discredited former CEO, McCain who had voted against tightening its lending practices.
Then you will print them, even though every one of those true stories will point the finger of blame at the reckless Democratic Party, which put our nation's prosperity at risk so they could feel good about helping the poor, and lay a fair share of the blame at Obama's door.
You will also tell the truth about John McCain: that he tried, as a Senator, to do what it took to prevent this crisis. You will tell the truth about President Bush: that his administration tried more than once to get Congress to regulate lending in a responsible way.
This was a Congress-caused crisis, beginning during the Clinton administration, with Democrats leading the way into the crisis and blocking every effort to get out of it in a timely fashion.
If you at our local daily newspaper continue to let Americans believe — and vote as if — President Bush and the Republicans caused the crisis, then you are joining in that lie.
If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats — including Barack Obama — and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans — then you are not journalists by any standard.
Good words, Orson. Now about that gay thing...