Orscon Scott Card, Tim Hortons and the Morality of the Boycott
(I know, I know – catchy title, right? Don’t worry, I’ll tie those together in a minute.)
I recently finished the first draft of a novel, hence the name of this blog. The reason why I’m currently posting here several times a day is that I’m letting that first draft ‘cool off’ on my hard drive before I take the editing hatchet to it, and blogging appeases my need to write. I’ve been writing for almost ten years at this point, and the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten came from Orscon Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. The books clarity is matched by its brevity – it’s short, as writing advice books go, but it contains more useful information per chapter than any other book on the subject I’ve come across. I would recommend it to anybody who’s even remotely interested in writing speculative fiction.
After devouring this book I sought out Orson Scott Card’s fictional works, curious to see if his own writing matched up to his brilliant teaching. Naturally, I started with Ender’s Game, and I wasn’t disappointed. I finished it and immediately bought Speaker for the Dead, which I liked just as much, and when I was done with that I bought Xenocide, which I never finished because the plot becomes rather ludicrous halfway through. (Ludicrous even by the standards of a series that features a man having a theological debate with a sentient tree, by the way.) It was at around this time that I decided to look up Card on Wikipedia, and I was dismayed to learn about his strong views on homosexuality. I was even more dismayed to find that he is, if not more offensively anti-gay than most members of the religious right, at least far more candid about his opinions and less willing to pull any punches.
Below are some examples of what I mean. Card is a senior member of the LDS Church, who played a now-infamous part in the Proposition 8 debacle, and his views apparently reflect those of the Church’s leaders.
Firstly, from a Salon interview:
Card raises his voice. “No, what they’ve done is oppose efforts to apply the word ‘marriage’ to a homosexual couple! People are treating it as if they were seeking out opportunities to persecute somebody else! They’re simply opposing changing the word ‘marriage’ to apply to something it’s never applied to.”
“How is that different from changing the law so that blacks and whites can marry?” I have to force the words out.
Incredulously: “Are you asking that question seriously?”
“I find the comparison between civil rights based on race and supposed new rights being granted for what amounts to deviant behavior to be really kind of ridiculous. There is no comparison. A black as a person does not by being black harm anyone. Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted. And the idea of ‘gay marriage’ — it’s hard to find a ridiculous enough comparison. By the way, I’d really hate it if your piece wound up focusing on the old charge that I’m a homophobe.” (Source)
Card has stated elsewhere that he has gay friends which, as we all know, immediately prevents somebody from being a homophobe.
Within the Church, the young person who experiments with homosexual behavior should be counseled with, not excommunicated. But as the adolescent moves into adulthood and continues to engage in sinful practices far beyond the level of experimentation, then the consequences within the Church must grow more severe and more long-lasting; unfortunately, they may also be more public as well.
This applies also to the polity, the citizens at large. Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those whoflagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.
The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity’s ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships. (Source)
Now, Card clearly isn’t too happy with the word ‘homophobe’, and I’m not particularly wild about it either, so let’s just say that his views run counter to those of the gay rights movement and leave it at that.
My initial reaction to reading all of this for the first time was to toss my copy of Ender’s Game into a fire and never buy any of his books again, as much as it would pain me to deprive myself of such excellent literature. And if somebody else asked me if his books were worth buying? Well, I’d…actually, what would I do? It’s one thing to stop buying his books myself, but recommending others do the same would be tantamount to starting a very small-scale boycott. Boycotts aren’t something I’ve ever been all that comfortable with, so I wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole situation.
Eventually I realized that I was being stupid, for several reasons. As Card himself points out, his books aren’t ‘for’ or ‘against’ homosexuality, at least not any of the ones I’ve ever read. Ender’s Game is not in any way anti-gay, and in fact several scenes made me wonder if Card himself might have felt some sort of same-sex attraction in his earlier days. As well as that, boycotting an author is an attempt at hurting that person financially, which would be spiteful as well as, in this case, completely pointless. I’ll steer well clear if Card ever writes a non-fiction work on the evils of homosexuality, but I’m perfectly happy to recommend his fiction to anybody who loves a good story. (Well, with the exception of Xenocide.)
The reason why I’m writing all of this now is because of the recent controversy over the donut/coffee company Tim Horton’s decision to supply free food and drinks to a National Organization for Marriage rally. NOM, which Card himself is actually a director of, is strongly anti-gay, and it wasn’t long before gay rights activists contacted the company to protest their decision. Tim Hortons replied by explaining that the decision to support or not support an event is usually up to individual franchise owners, but that the NOM rally ‘fell outside of their sponsorship guidelines’. So, no Tim Hortons coffee and donuts for NOM.
This angered some people, mostly those on the religious right and those who oppose boycotts in general. The situation forced me to consider my own feelings on the matter, particularly in light of what I’d already decided in relation to Card’s novels. Firstly, I think it’s important to differentiate between boycotting a single person for their views and boycotting a company for their actions. The people who run Tim Hortons may or may not be opposed to gay rights – that’s really irrelevant. What is relevant is that the company was planning on supporting one of the most anti-gay organizations in the United States.
Let’s face it – this is tactics. If we disagree with what a company is doing, the only reasonable methods of fighting back is either protesting (which is what happened in the case of Tim Hortons – it never got any further) or boycotting them. And why shouldn’t we boycott them? We’re not depriving anybody of their freedom of speech or any other right – all we’re doing is letting them know that if they want to support a cause we disagree with, we’ll take our business elsewhere.
In the case of a business like Tim Hortons, then, I would support a boycott as long as it was targeted solely at that business’s actions and not at the personal views of any of its employees.