(Sarah is off having fun in Denver at ComicCon this weekend, so I said I would fill in for her. She will be back next week.)
I’ve been sitting here this morning, listening to the rain and trying to figure out what to write about. There is always the fall-back of the Hugos, especially after a couple of comments this week over at my blog. But it didn’t feel right, not as the main topic. As we near Memorial Day, the Hugos just don’t seem that important. How can it be when we take time this weekend to remember those men and women and their families who have sacrificed so much for their country? Then, if you live in this part of the country, it is hard to take the Hugo kerfluffle seriously when you look at the people who have been forced to flee their homes due to persistent rains and flooding or when you remember the firefighter who lost his life earlier today during a high water rescue.
So, if you will pardon me, I am going to do a post today that is more than a writing post.
Yesterday, I went to the 80th birthday party for a family friend. I’ll admit I went like the sulky kid being dragged somewhere she didn’t want to go. I had other things to do. I wouldn’t know many people there. All the standard excuses. Now, I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience of those two hours or so I spent there.
I had the pleasure and the extreme honor of sitting next to a gentleman in every sense of the word. When we started talking, I guessed he was, at most, 80. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that my son is in the military. Suddenly this gentleman’s eyes lit up and he said he had been in the Air Force. We talked a bit more and his wife joined the conversation. It seems her husband had been among the veterans who had returned to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of if D-Day landing. It had been his second return to Normandy as part of the different commemorations over the years. But this last one had been very important because so many of them knew they would not be around to make the 75th anniversary.
It seems this gentleman is in his 90s. He flew 25 missions over Germany and was lucky enough that he was never shot down. That is impressive in and of itself but when you realize that the lifespan of most of those in his unit was four missions, it becomes clear that he had an angel on his shoulder during those missions.
But on his last trip back to Normandy, his roommate — and they were hosted by a Belgium couple who lived near the beachhead — was the youngest member of their group at the young ago of 86. He had lied in order to join the infantry. When D-Day came, he was one of those who parachuted in. Like so many, he was dropped well outside the dropzone. for this gentleman, it was 12 miles behind enemy lines. He managed to avoid capture before linking back up with the Americans.
These men were willing to take up arms and fight for our country, to fight against the evil that was Hitler. They represent all those who have fought for our country over the years. Their sacrifice has given us a country where we still have the freedom to write and say pretty much whatever we want. Yes, over the years, some limitations have occurred. I don’t necessarily like it but I will still take it over anywhere else.
This is why when I see people — especially people who are in the publishing industry — condemning the likes of the cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo, I wonder if they realize what a steep and dangerous path they are embarking on. When I see authors and editors calling for writers who aren’t progressive enough or enlightened enough to be run out of the industry, I ask what they will do when they find themselves the target of such calls (and the day will come when that happens. It always does.).
I look at the Hugo controversy and wonder if those clinging to the award, willing to destroy careers if necessary in order to do so, and I wonder if they have given even a passing thought to how what they are advocating is the non-political version of censorship (and yes, I understand that technically only a government can censure something). They want to silence points of view they don’t agree with. They want to silence what they see as the opposition. Which, when you consider that science fiction should be the one place where all viewpoints should be welcome is not only ironic but sad.
So today, here is my challenge to each of us. Remember those who have sacrificed so much so we can read and write what we want (within limits. Remember, the Supreme Court will know pornography when it sees it). Now ask yourselves if what you are doing honors their sacrifice. For myself, I am going to be doing all I can to honor it.
And, as my USMC friends would say, “Oo-rah!”