Tall Tales and Tiny Revolutions

Tall Tales and Tiny Revolutions: Politics and fiction have much in common. Imagine that!

The upcoming presidential election wraps up months of campaigning, in which each political party has tried to outdo the other in its public storytelling. The narratives follow familiar terrain: “We are the party of change,” says one. “We will keep America strong,” says another. Each party has spent millions to present its candidate as the true “outsider” to Wash­ington politics, the honest crusader who can fix what’s broken in America. These storylines are carefully crafted to appeal to our ideals and our frustrations—in short, they tell us what we want to hear.

Leaders the world over use their power to shape narratives—to good and bad effect. Under repressive governments, such as in China or under South Africa’s apartheid regime, storytellers of a different kind—writers—are among those who suffer when their work doesn’t conform to prevailing social, political, religious, or cultural narratives. Their work is banned, they are silenced, put in prison, exiled—or worse. Unlike politicians, writers often tell their governments, and us, what we don’t want to hear.

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Sojourners Magazine November 2008
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