ONE THING I ask readers not to do is confuse the messenger with the message; the spokesman for the cause. A favorite tactic of those who resist literary change is to discredit myself-- easily enough done. I have many failings. This doesn't mean that the CAUSE of literary rebellion is not right and just.
I understand the concern of those who fear the Rebellion will become just one more official "opposition," as institutionalized and irrelevant to its own society as PEN American Center itself. We're a long way from that! The way to avoid that moribund fate is for the rebellion to remain always dynamic, away from any rut. We have to be constantly on the move.
This doesn't mean we not OPPOSE, in every way feasible, corruption and injustice.
I was raised on certain myths. Ideals, if you will-- many of them about America; what that name was supposed to represent.
My models were such things as the speech by a character in Grapes of Wrath who says that, when evil occurs, "I'll be there" to oppose it. Not stop it, necessarily-- failures before victory are inevitable. To make the attempt.
The speeches and actions in the movie "Adventures of Robin Hood" continue to echo through me; from a character who dares to oppose greed and evil.
My dad was a model for me-- a simple factory worker who knew right from wrong. I remember the day he stopped a man beating a dog; gave him ten dollars for it and brought the dog home.
Oppose? Yes, oppose! It's been the glorious task of writers, Dickens to Hugo to Zola to London to Crane to Norris to Steinbeck, and so many more. Our ability with words is a responsibility-- to use.
I'm not a Democrat or Republican; not on the Right or the Left. BUT-- I'm able to recognize the opportunity given us by President Obama. He strikes me as a Gorbachev figure, who's asked for "perestroika"-- restructuring-- and "glasnost"-- openness.
This means, according to my understanding, that he wants us to speak out. Opportunity is before us. The time for change is NOW.
The Petition to PEN is one small part of this.