Ever hear of the Political Compass? It’s pretty cool. It basically suggests, based on good evidence, that simply left and right aren’t enough to really characterize political views. You have to include at least one more axis, and that is libertarian vs. authoritarian. It’s worth taking the test, just to see where you fall. I imagine many people I know will fall somewhere in the green left bottom square. But I’m quite the outlier. Ghandi and the Dalai Lama are less outliers than I am. And Obama is actually well up and right in the blue quadrant, kinda near Mitt Romney (that’s correct, we really didn’t get that much of a choice, now, did we? But we knew that.) Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate (president, 2012), is five little squares more authoritarian and 6 little squares more right than I am. (She’s kinda in the upper right of the lower left quadrant.) The governments of Scandanavia, the leftist poster children, are still in the blue quadrant.
So what does this mean? It means that I feel completely politically alienated, almost all of the time.
Let me give you a few examples:
Q. What can we do about police brutality?
A. Why are there police?
Q. What can we do about unemployment?
A. Why do people have to have jobs?
Q. Shouldn’t we tax the rich?
A. Why are there people who hoard money?
Q. How’s that Obamacare doing?
A. Why are for-profit entities involved in healthcare?
Q. Should we regulate against GMOs?
A. Why should for-profit entities be growing our food?
Q. Should there be a carbon tax to combat climate change?
A. What is all this shit we’re doing for, anyway? What’s the point?
Every single political question of our time leads me not to an answer or my opinion, but to another question about our fundamental assumptions about how to live our lives. Of course, if you constrain me, and force me to answer questions based on current assumptions, then I’m your standard, garden variety far-leftist. But I don’t like being constrained in that way. And I also am fully and completely aware of how I am constrained into living a life that isn’t actually the life I’d want to be able to lead, and some things I do go against my own ideals.
There’s another part of being alienated, for me. It has to do with my own identity. Because I’m black, queer, genderqueer and a woman in our white, heteropatriarchal society, I live on the edge of danger, of marginalization, of silences, of struggle. I don’t generally see myself reflected in society, and when I do, it’s usually distorted. And I also don’t always see myself reflected in queer of color spaces, either. Often it’s because I don’t live an urban life. Sometimes it’s because I’m too much of a geek. Sometimes it’s because I’m too much of a weird spiritual mutt. Sometimes it’s because I just can’t sustain anger and outrage.
You might say, especially now, how can I say that? Oh, I’ve been angry and outraged. But I can’t hold onto the anger for more than a short while (like less than an hour). It’s not healthy for me. Feeling it is important, but so is letting it go. I have to let it go, or it will eat at my soul like battery acid. I don’t want an acid-eaten soul.
So here I sit, on this edge. This socialist/libertarian/queer/geeky/rural/mutt-spiritual/not-so-angry edge. And this is why I write novels. At least I can use this alienation to good ends.