I've finally been part of an author event that got protested by the right wing. I've had 23 books published, five short stories, been to numerous conventions, talked on panels, attended author events in books stores, done a million things for publicity, but it wasn't until last Saturday, June 16, that protesters finally showed up.
Took them long enough.
I was at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. It is a wonderful campus. All the people I met connected with the event were kind, friendly and helpful. They were stunningly well-organized; for example, for intervals between panels there was entertainment such as a bell choir and a brass ensemble. It was just an event filled with pleasant amenities and people.
The theme of the festival was "Freedom to Read." Every hour and a half from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening there were numerous literary panels to choose from such as: Writing in Wisconsin: A Wisconsin Writers Association Panel; Finding Your voice; Make Room for Romance; Wisconsin Women of Mystery; Defining (And Loving) Literary Fiction, and many many more. It was a literate person's buffet of delights.
I was part of two panels. One in the morning, "Macho Men of Mystery," had male panelists with a female moderator. I think I need more butch lessons to really fit in on that one. The panel consisted of pleasant, intelligent, well-read people guided by a great moderator into discussing what the real definition of being a macho character in a mystery novel means.
The other forum, in the afternoon, was titled "Outfront: A LBGT Author Panel." The authors were Anne Laughlin, Elizabeth Ridley, C.P. Rowlands, myself and our moderator, Timothy Thering.
We discussed the intricacies of being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender writer, the prejudiced we dealt with in terms of being published and getting published. The comments were trenchant, well-thought out, and relevant to the issues at hand.
Then about 55 minutes into the panel, someone came into the room and told us there was a group outside protesting against us. I'd never been protested. So right after we were done, I hurried out to see them.
I guess protests aren't what they used to be. There were nine protesters, seven of whom seemed to be adults.
They had signs about us that read, "Homosexuality is Sin," "Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out," "Flee Sexual Immorality," plus one saying something about us being the epitome of sin.
I've been working on that "epitome of sin" thing, trying my best to get it right. Frankly, being the epitome of sin kind of sounds like a lot of fun. As for fleeing sexual immorality, hell, I'd just like to get someone to go home with me from a bar sometime this century. It's the other guys who keep fleeing.
The protestors stood on a sidewalk across a parking lot from the building we were in. A few cars rode past on the road behind them. The sun shone down.
One of them had a bullhorn being used to call out I'm not sure what. As with most bullhorns used in the outdoors at rallies and events, I've found that if you're more than about ten feet away, whatever is being said sounds like gibberish. Presumably whatever they were saying was in fact gibberish, but the acoustics of outdoor planet Earth were working against them. I caught not a word.
So a few of us stood and looked at them standing in their feeble line. It was pathetic. We talked about how sad they were. We laughed a little bit, too. I guess because of the absurdity of what they were doing. Really? Threatened by a gay and lesbian literary panel? But to some, it is, alas, so.
Then somebody took a picture of them. Then we went back inside. Later I couldn't find anybody who knew when they left because nobody stayed to watch them.
The problem, however, was this: There were no television cameras, no sound trucks, no reporters so no live reports from remote locations, no helicopters circling overhead, no real cops, no campus copsand no fake cops, for that matter. It was really a genuine mess. Can't these protesters do anything right?
Worse, I've never been able to get anyone to denounce my books and their gay characters and gay themesor, better yet, have someone go on national television and call for them to be banned. Sales would soar, but no such luck.
But by golly, I've finally done an event that got protested. A good reporter would have rushed across to interview them, gotten their names, the name of their organization and then represent their views in an article in some kind of fair and balanced way. I didn't want to get that close to them. I was not about to underestimate the vitriol of the right wing based on how pathetic the protest was. We have seen illogic used against us. We have seen our politeness and attempts to understand used as weapons against us. They would get no forum from me.
I wondered (and still wonder): What did these people expect to gain? What was the point in their being at that spot on this planet at that moment? Did they feel better about themselves? I guess so.
Did they feel they'd made their statement? I presume so. Did they make the world a better place? I don't think so. Did they contribute to making the world a kinder and gentler place where each of us does the best he or she can in a universe that is ultimately indifferent to our existence? Not so much.
And they passed up a chance to make me rich. Sigh.
Mark Zubro is a local author whose next book, Too Stupid to Live, will be out later this year.