The Politics Of Silence

By Paul Monette
I said to my friend: ‘Is your sister political?’
And he replied: ‘No, she’s an artist.’
This is not something I can agree to anymore. It is simply not enough to be an artist, unengaged. If you live in political times, if the lightning rod of history quivers with fire on your roof, then all art is political. And all art is that is not consciously so partakes of the messiness of politics, if only to flee it. People still went to the opera in Nazi Germany, people still read books that were pleasant and diverting.
Robin lane Fox, a massively learned historian of religion, says most people believe that the Christian world was a fait accompli, a historical inevitability. But in point of fact, until Constantine converted to Christianity in 313, the western world was a battleground between pagans and Christians. The pagans were an urban, sophisticated class – not unlike us. They had their mysteries, and of course they had their gods, very human gods. So one of the first things the early popes did was systematically destroy the pagan texts, or lock them up in monasteries. Professor Fox was able to reconstruct a semblance of the pagan world by going through ancient cemeteries reading the gravestones.
If you destroy the record, you destroy the truth.
I’ve learned in my adult life that the will to silence the truth is always and everywhere as strong as the truth itself. So it is a necessary fight we will always be in: those of us who struggle to understand our common truths, and those who try to erase them. The first Nazi book burning, I would have you remember, was of a gay and lesbian archive.
Source: Last Watch Of The Night, essays too personal and otherwise

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