I was at the library yesterday, and spoke briefly with my friend, who is a reference librarian there. She was faced with a disturbing situation--a patron had contacted her (I think by phone); he said that he wanted to join the KKK, and wanted to know how to find them. My friend told me she wasn't sure what her responsibility as a librarian was in such a case. She was tempted to tell him to go find the information, himself. She also wondered if perhaps the caller was doing an academic study just to see whether someone could get that sort of information through the library. I am curious to know how it all unfolded (D, if you're reading this, please let me know.)
This got me to thinking--what is my responsibility as a writer? This is something I think about a lot, actually. Part of me feels that my only responsibility is to become transparent, to tell the stories that want to come through me without imposing my own agenda. I want to be an open, unbiased, channel. At the same time, I feel a real responsibility to keep the voice of dissent alive, to speak up about the things that disturb me, to give a throat to those who are voiceless. The honors I have received (not to mention the current oppressive political climate) have made this feel even more imperative to me, but it can be a tricky balance. I like to think that if I allow myself to be an open channel, my passions will find a way to seep through. At the same time, I have to be open to anything; if a character who wants to join the KKK speaks up inside of me, I need to listen, to follow that story. And I think that is ultimately where the most healing aspect of fiction comes in--it allows us to look into the heart of the other (even if that heart is a dark one); it helps us realize that the other isn't so other after all. Which ultimately helps increase our capacity for connection and compassion. That, I think, is the best goal of all.