Is history being made? I mean, really–is this moment the pivotal crux of a cultural shift, or is it just another cluster of damaged feelings and radical youths (or, as My Cousin Vinnie would say, “youts!”)? People are always Scarlett O’Hara-ing their way through cultural issues, so how do we know when something truly, unusually significant is occurring? Do we simply look back years later and think “Yeah, shit really changed after that?” How do we delineate which moments are media cannon-fodder, and which ones are the moments that shape the way we are? The events that–for years afterward–will serve as common political small talk as you discuss the “Where Were You When”s and the “What Did You Do”s?
A writer’s job is–often, but not always–not to interact with or launch these events, but to diligently document them. We watch from the darkened corners of the room and Harriet the Spy our way through life, commenting on and cataloging the societal shifts, recognizing the current exigencies, and creating various calls-to-arms. If photography is an immediate reaction, and drawing a meditation, then writing is our measured reflection. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and Watergate. Henrik Ibsen and A Doll’s House. Simone de Beauvoir and The Second Sex. Many writers did not stand behind a podium and preach the need for change–rather, we stood next to the fine, carved-oak doors of the church and quietly handed out pamphlets chock-full of metaphors and cynical observations on the preacher and his daily sermon. Yes. We are those people. We are the flies on the walls and the changing-room mirrors with bad lighting–yes, look at yourself–look at what you have become! We are the social commentators that sip our coffee and pet our cats and hope that maybe–someday–someone will listen to what we have to say.
We are not loud people. We are not necessarily brave people. We are often not even particularly clever people (okay, that bit is a lie–we writers are usually clever as fuck.) What we are, are extremely introspective, borderline-obsessive observers who happen to enjoy fooling with words and poking the bears. And man, are there some bears today that need pokin’.