Feb 1 2013

The politics of silence

It’s interesting how different readers react to the characters and events in Hannah’s Voice – either praising or being offended by how certain characters are portrayed. Some think I’ve written a Christian novel, or a novel that ridicules people of faith, or a conservative novel, or a novel that makes fun of people with conservative values or people with liberal values.

I didn’t write a political novel or a religious story. It’s a story about a little girl whose life gets caught in the crossfire of the adult world, and how she maintains her integrity and her childlike faith despite the dysfunction all around her. The innocence and forthrightness of childhood clash with the selfishness and guile of grown-ups.

Some of the various groups that interfere in Hannah’s life are portrayed – or at least were intended to be portrayed – at a level approaching absurdity. In the course of real world events, now that the book is published, it no longer seems so absurd.

I’ve found it mildly amusing that some readers have picked up on the portrayal of one group, but not another. The story contains some deluded religious fanatics. A couple of readers have said they liked how those ‘fundamentalists’ are portrayed. Another thought it was going to be yet another novel that presents a distorted negative stereotype of Christians. But the story also contains sympathetic, even heroic, characters of faith, and bumbling, dishonest left-wing ideologues. There are reactionary forces, political and religious, at both extremes, each of which displays hate and intolerance toward the other side for trying to impose their beliefs, while they are also trying to impose their beliefs.

Other institutions get the same treatment as well, such as the news media, public school administrators, psychologists and counselors, social workers, and the foster care system. There are rigid bureaucrats and loving foster parents; journalism vultures and an ambitious but compassionate news anchor; incompetent administrators and devoted teachers and nurses.

The characters with big hearts and actions to match are from all walks of life, just as the deluded fanatics are.

Isn’t that how real life is?

Hannah, however, is silent. She doesn’t try to impose anything on anyone. She just wants to live her life. She maintains her faith, but she certainly doesn’t hold herself up as perfect. In fact, she breaks one of the Ten Commandments in the opening lines of the novel.

So what is Hannah’s political viewpoint? She’s six years old when the story begins. She has no political views. She just wants to be left alone. She doesn’t want to be the center of attention. She wants to be understood and believed when she speaks. When she has nothing to say, she wants to be ignored. She wants to be with her family. She wants to live her life and her faith without interference and without the meddling of those whose intentions are infused with personal agendas.

If Hannah spoke, she might say “Don’t tread on me,” rather than, “It takes a village.” In Hannah’s case, it’s a village full of idiots – idiots of all political ideologies, occupations, and religious beliefs who think they are the sole owners of revealed truth.

Perhaps Hannah is a libertarian.

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