“Whose side are you on?” — the Politics of Division

“Whose side are you on?” — the Politics of Division

Posted on February 20 by Jeffrey Round in Mystery
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

I wrote the fifth Dan Sharp mystery, The God Game, during the much-publicized political antics of what became known as the Ford Nation. Its self-proclaimed leader, Rob Ford, was then mayor of Toronto. Like many, I was appalled by his aberrant behaviour, but dismissed it as a passing phase in Canadian history. Not for a moment did I think it was just the beginning of what in many ways is now the defining ethos of our current political era.

As far as I was concerned, I was writing what I refer to as “literary noir.” I did not think of my book as an exegesis of politics. I simply used politics as a running theme, but not one I intended to over-analyze.

Recently, however, an online reviewer suggested I had evaded my responsibility by not giving a thorough political critique of the times. He seemed to feel I had not taken sides. In fact, I hadn’t. I’m not a political commentator. Nor am I in any way a fan of politics. I tell people I believe in good governance, but not in politics.

We know what the first is, but the latter is far trickier to define. For me, it has always boiled down to a question of division: Whose side are you on? As with most polarizing subjects, like the Ford Nation, it seems people are expected to choose.

Until she died recently, I had a Canadian-born aunt who spent her adult life in the United States. For the most part, we enjoyed each other’s company. I found it disconcerting, however, when in the middle of a conversation she would turn on the television to a particularly virulent “news” station. At first I was amused by what I heard coming out of the mouths of the people onscreen. It seemed a bad joke, but at least it was an American one. Then I realized their attitudes were not only onerous, they were real.

“Aunt Phyl,” I would say. “Why do you watch this? These people are crazy. They don’t make sense.”

She would pat my arm and say, “I know, dear. But I believe them anyway.”

And that is the nature of politics. It doesn’t have to make sense. What matters is whose side you’re on.

In a previous book, The Honey Locust, I described the Siege of Sarajevo with as much verisimilitude as I could muster. I purposely focused on a mixed-race couple (Serb/Croat) to make clear I was not taking sides. Nevertheless, I was constantly asked, “Whose side are you on?” It seemed to be the only way people could understand what I had written. I gave the only honest answer I could: “I’m on the side of those whose lives were harmed or destroyed by war and politics.”

“Give peace a chance!” cried John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and much of their idealistic 1960s generation. But the truth is, we didn’t. It should come as no surprise then that we are once again in an era defined by the ethics of fear, hate and greed, as espoused by some of the most virulent and influential leaders of our times. And, whether we like it or not, we are now reaping a harvest sowed by the politics of division.

Jeffrey Round

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Jeffrey Round photo

Jeffrey Round

Jeffrey Round is the author of numerous books, including the Lambda Award–winning Dan Sharp mystery series and the stand-alone mystery Endgame. He lives in Toronto.