While bookworms consult other bookworms for reading recommendations, there is often a common caveat to these requests. It goes something like this: “I love the suspense or thriller genre, but please no politics.”
Readers have valid reasons for avoiding the political. Fiction is often viewed as an escape from the problems of the world. No one wants to be lectured from either the left or the right of the political spectrum. So why do writers, who happen to be political junkies, inject their stories with political principles, and why is it important? Here are a few reasons to consider.
Infuse fiction with politics in order to educate. There is a great need for civic knowledge about the form and function of government in our country. Either by misinformation or neglect, many citizens of the U.S. believe that we are a democracy when, in fact, we are a representative republic. On the surface, these two systems of governance seem similar, but have vastly different implications once implemented.
How can this integral function of government be understood, appreciated, and preserved unless the value of it is taught to the public? Well-written fiction can make complex political institutions, issues, and problems understandable, without the boring parts. A captivating story conveys crucial information and entertains the reader much more effectively than a dry lecture or a didactic textbook.
Illuminate Our Shared Ethic
Political fiction illustrates and illuminates a shared ethic that governs individual relationships in our society. For instance, most parents teach their children the value of honesty, hard work, and human dignity. These same values are the basis on which laws are debated, enacted, and enforced in the political arena. A similar moral debate or discussion occurs in a great story. Readers cheer when a wrong is rectified and good triumphs.
Yet, for some, there remains a disconnect in the political realm.
Heads To Hearts
A well-written story can be the bridge that crosses the partisan divide. A story can communicate mutually-held truths that surpass identity politics. Fiction, political or otherwise, allows readers to observe a character, watch them make choices, and vicariously feel the weight of consequences as the narrative progresses. This process connects heads to hearts. As a result, political fiction helps readers to see and understand complex issues in new or deeper ways.
A great story entertains our senses, encompasses our emotions, and exposes our motives. To paraphrase Shakespeare in Hamlet, “The story’s the thing, to catch the conscience of the king.” Readers not only discover truth, but also consider how its implications impact them personally. In this way, the best fiction sheds light on who we really are.
Political fiction is a tool to inform readers why the foundational principles of this country are worth preserving and protecting. Furthermore, if done correctly, it engages the mind and touches the heart. More than any political speech, great fiction can inspire us to be better citizens. Encouraging the creation and enjoyment of political fiction is one way our country, and our stories, not only survive, but thrive. Future generations will thank us for it.