An enviable quote from Ernest Hemingway was that writers must put their ideology and positions on hold when sitting down at the typewriter. Otherwise, one was violating the craft. Hemingway was referring to a specific genre of writing; that of fiction.
But balanced against this was George Orwell, who, with two exceptions, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, was more an essayist than a novelist. For him, the starting point of any non-fiction piece derived from a sense of outrage:
“When I sit down to write…I do not say to myself, ‘I’m going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I wish to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and the initial concern is to get a hearing.”
Whatever one thinks of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon’s leftist politics—evidenced by his worshipful support for Obama from the get-go, and, as a bisexual, his championship of gay rights—he has honored Hemingway’s advice.
In his best known novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay, Chabon, despite the numerous opportunities he allowed himself (the Clay character discovered his homosexuality via an affair with a trophy boyfriend, and repressed these urges for the remainder of the novel), kept his views out of it. All of his characters who were gay weren’t portrayed as heroic characters, but as flawed human beings. Clay was a cowardly sell-out, who, against his will, serviced an arresting FBI agent rather than go to jail.
Although the novel contained Nazis (the story begins in 1939), the two he created—one, a German one at a New York embassy; the other, a homegrown one residing in the Yorkville section of New York—weren’t comic book villains. The German embassy figure was polite and did not express any anti-Semitism toward Kavelier during the latter’s repeated pleas to get his family out of Germany. The American one was more a pathetic wannabe than a sinister Fifth columnist, headquartering himself in a dingy office while obsessing over the notion that actor Franchet Tone was the leader of the world-wide Jewish conspiracy.
But Chabon has also followed George Orwell’s advice for the essay form. Compelled by President Trump’s recent characterization of the White Power and outright Nazi protesters who beat up the counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA as “very fine people,” Chabon recently wrote an “Open Letter To Our Fellow Jews.”
In the letter, Chabon chastises those Jews who have supported the president despite Trump’s “long and appalling record of racist statements,” which they have ignored or rationalized based solely on Trump’s supposed allegiance to Israel.
Chabon concludes with a clarion call to Trump’s Jewish supporters on the ground to repudiate their support, and to those inside the Oval Office to resign in protest. Otherwise, they are in effect supporting Trump’s “racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred.”
It must be said that Chabon is on firm ground regarding Trump’s anti-Semitism—an anti-Semitism so obvious that American Nazi David Duke has recognized and applauded it.
And true to form, Trump is once again refusing to apologize for these comments, which in effect are both granting members of the White Power and Nazi protesters respectability, and giving these “very fine people” the green light for future violence.
But Chabon should recognize that his, along with other Obama supporters, adherence to political correctness with its demands for self-censorship out of the dreaded fear that they might be offending someone somewhere, and for dog-piling those who dare to speak freely, were the source of the politically incorrect Trump’s power.
For 8 years, people were told they could not practice freedom of speech, and that minorities had the right not to be offended.
Such desires to be tolerant in order to avoid the dread charge of racism, sexism and fascism had done dirt to what George Orwell called the sacred duty of free speech, which is to “tell people what they don’t want to hear.”
From this “tolerance” the nation’s first African-American president derived his own source of power. Liberal and even Republican pundits and politicians for eight long years gave Obama a free pass, even when liberals and Republicans confined their attacks to the former president’s policies (with liberals criticizing them for either not doing enough for or failing to help the underprivileged; and Republicans attacking said policies for their unconstitutional and big government design).
And as with Trump’s Jewish supporters, liberal Jews engaged in the same exercise of rationalizations or remaining silent. In their case this exercise was applied to Obama’s clear dislike of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even to the point of blaming the Netanyahu government for many of the troubles in the Middle East. Trapped in an ideological straitjacket of their own making, liberal Jews could not criticize the African-American Obama out of fears of a backlash from Jewish and non-Jewish figures on their side of the political spectrum. But Trump’s base, the white working class, who in all probability put him into office, was of a different—read courageous—mindset. Fed up with their freedom of speech being policed, this silent majority became not so silent.
For better or worse, they have found in Trump a kindred spirit who refuses to play the politically correct game. They have cheered and continue to cheer his refusal to apologize for anything he has said, no matter how outrageous, as a welcome sign of courage; which, despite his inherited billionaire status, makes him one of their own.
In 1940, Orwell, perhaps one of the founding members of the politically incorrect school of thought, daringly stated that, although he would kill him if given the chance, he couldn’t dislike Adolf Hitler.
This view was designed for the valuable political purpose of understanding the appeal of Hitler which resulted in a “whole nation [flinging] itself at his feet;” and from such understanding one could learn how to fight Hitler effectively.
Such a view required courage (while the British Orwell was writing this article, Hitler’s Luftwaffe was bombing London),something which is lacking in Chabon’s essay. Rather than seek to understand why those of his own are supporting Donald Trump, he instead, in sledgehammer-like fashion, has presented them with the either/or Manichaeism of the simple-minded.