Friday, May 28, 2010

Stranger than Fiction: The Shaky Future of American Fringe

by Charlie Vázquez

Tea Party talk of secession, detainment and deportation of “targeted” undesirables, the repeating echoes of painful histories—who can imagine a world more complex than today’s? But it can always get worse, can’t it? When I sat down to begin writing my new novel Contraband five years ago, the Arizona controversy currently finding angry headlines was a distant mirage of fictive possibility. Today it’s suspicious "Hispanics," but who will find themselves in the crosshairs of tomorrow’s legalized oppression? We need to be watchful of this smug “reclaiming of territory” that ignores a long, bloody, and shameful history perpetuated by greedy westward-moving Americans and others. Perhaps I saw it coming…

Like many works of queer fiction, Contraband was influenced by three very real events in queer history: the often fatal abuse of homosexuals in the Nazi concentration camps, the persecution of gay Cuban journalists and artists after Fidel’s victory in Cuba in 1959, and the 1950s Senator McCarthy-led “Lavender Scare” headhunts in the US government, which placed gays alongside communists, spies, and threats to the intelligence structure during the bubbling of the Cold War. My tortured protagonist, Volfango, works for the darkening government, but leaves it all behind to live in secret subterranean tunnel communities, where free-thinkers and other fringy folks are convening to live in freedom—and squalor. Let us hope we never have to live like this!

If Arizona SB 1070 (sounds apocalyptic already) is the beginning of bigger things to come, let us pray to the queer gods that a Tea Party-created (read: insane) administration never finds its way into The White House. So much progress will be squandered in the name of reclaiming (straight/white) America, and us queers are going to have a lot to lose should a Christian Right-based government decide to round us up and ship us somewhere far—or make us disappear forever as happens in Contraband. It's happened before in our great big world, but let’s hope it doesn’t happen again anytime soon. Only time will tell. I’m ready to fight when that time comes. Are you?

For more information on Contraband and Charlie Vázquez website:

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