Sunday, March 4, 2012

Orson Scott Card - Fallen Author

There was a time when I couldn't get enough of Orson Scott Card's writing.  I read "Ender's Game" in middle school and loved it, and read it a few more times as a teen and was fascinated by the things I'd missed the first time around.  It was a masterpiece.  I especially used to like his short fiction: it was raw and rough hard sci-fi.  He had a talent for capturing the darkest elements of human nature and the struggle we each must personally make against them.

Through the years, though, I found I tired of Card.  His new books were increasingly bland, predictable, and repetitive.  I eventually gave up entirely, since if I really wanted cheap pulp-fiction sci-fi, I could find better examples elsewhere.

Fast-forward a few years.  I learn that Card is involved with the National Organization for Marriage, an organization I have never liked much because of its dishonest anti-gay rhetoric.  Even before I lost all faith in the LDS church, I always had issues with the church's political stance on gay marriage... I was okay with religious organizations dictating moral standards for their members, but for society as a whole...?

More recently, I had the misfortune of happening across this little bowl of tripe.  Card's essay about "the hypocrites of homosexuality" is nothing we haven't all heard before.  My main objections to his reasoning are his insistence that the laws of god as purveyed by the "prophets" is unchanging (when LDS church dogma has in fact evolved rapidly for the last couple of centuries), his "I'm the victim here" condemnation of his own critics, and his sleight-of-hand transition from condemning the idea that the church should accept homosexuality to condemnation of all legal recognition of rights for gays.

The first is self-explanatory: sure, the will of the prophets can't be contradicted, except when later prophets overturn "God's word" entirely.  To suggest that the church never changes its mind in response to the moral progress of society as a whole is to ignore entirely the church's historical stance on race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Or should we still kill anyone who marries across ethnic boundaries?

Card's defiant defense against his "satanic" critics is laughable.  At the end of the article, he notes that just as he predicted, he had been unfairly labeled for his upright and honest writing as "homophobic" and other related terms.  While it is true that Card never directly advocates violence or hatred toward gays, he consistently refers to their feelings in a way that dismisses them as selfish or unnatural.  He even advocates kindness toward individuals, but outright animosity toward gays as a group.  Poor Orson!  How dare those mean old gays and their brainwashed friends attack him for his honest portrayal of their sinful lifestyle?

Finally, Card pulls a funny little trick when he transitions without warning from defending a church's right not to condone homosexual behavior (which I grudgingly accept) to insisting that government ought to condemn the same.  He makes the argument that government ought to defend its citizens against such offenses as murder, and the same goes for gay marriage!  I think the difference is obvious, but if it isn't, I'll point out that gay marriage does not hurt those who don't approve of it as long as they don't engage in it.  You can babble all you want about churches losing their tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform such nuptials and such, but frankly I am an advocate of removing tax-exempt status for churches entirely (treat them like non-profits or something for all I care, it's just silly to give them special privileges just because they have "church" in their names).  The bottom line?  The LDS church need never condone gay marriage as far as I am concerned, but has no right acting as a political entity trying to ban the same at a state of federal level.  The individuals in the church are free to vote as their conscience dictates, of course, and if they choose to vote for intolerance, that is their decision.  That's what we have courts for -- to prevent the "moral" majority from needlessly oppressing minorities.

How did Card go from the masterpiece of Ender's Game to the pile of steaming poo that constitutes this essay?  I wish I knew...  How do authors so fall from grace?
One theory (purely speculative) springs to mind.  I remember my father telling my young self that he suspected Card of having strong homosexual feelings himself, and of struggling with said feelings because of his LDS faith.  This was simply based on my father's assessment of Card's writings.
If this was true, it all begins to make sense.  Card's lifelong struggle and self-hatred due to his hidden homosexual tendencies have finally manifested themselves in his old age as hatred toward all thing to do with homosexuality.  We all attack most vehemently what we hate most about ourselves.  In addition, he seeks to "redeem" himself from his earlier, darker (and brilliant) writings by writing increasingly-conformist books filled with more and more tiresome apologetic viewpoints designed to ameliorate his inner Brigham Young.  The tortured young author has become the self-righteous old puppet of his religion's ideology.  And now he rides on the wave of fame (and maybe shame?) of his earlier self in order to disseminate his uncreative ideas about how other people's sexuality should be treated.

Mourn with me a moment, brothers and sisters, for the passing of a great author, not into a noble death, but into shameful triviality.

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