Funny thing about freedom of speech. It doesn’t really exist in a capitalist system. Words, I suspect the powers that be know, are extremely potent. Any system that brooks no rivals will insist on silencing dissidents. And not just on a national scale. Several years ago I was interviewed by a Catholic magazine for an editorial position. I was between jobs and this looked like a good fit; in fact, the woman who arranged the interview told me that if this position didn’t work out they’d likely be able to find a different one for someone with my particular skill set. When the power that was interviewed me, however, he noted that I had a blog. “If we hire you, you’ll need to take it down,” he said. It would confuse readers who might think I was speaking for the Catholic Church. My candidacy did not proceed.
In a job I would eventually get, in academic publishing, a similar concern was expressed. Although I hold an earned doctorate from a world-class research university, my opinions might be mistaken for those of some true authority. Problematic. This issue keeps coming up. I write fiction and publish it under a pseudonym. Sometimes I think about coming out of my literary closet, but the issues pour in hard and fast when the door’s opened. What would those who read my nonfiction (both of them!) think? Would I discredit myself because I have too much imagination? What would an academic employer say? If I ever went back on the ordination track, would a congregation of any sort understand a clergy person who thinks such things? I get enough flak from writing about horror films.
The fact is, freedom of expression is very, very limited. Capitalism measures all things by the bottom line and anything that might cause that trend to waver is forbidden. Lack of team spirit. If you want to publish, don’t work in publishing. It’s like saying (if I might be so bold) that you shouldn’t teach if you earn a doctorate, because you might actually contribute to what we hopefully call knowledge. This dilemma has become an entrenched part of my psyche. I grew up innocently writing fiction. I completed my first stories about the age of 12 or 13. I was eventually groomed for the ministry and so the fiction had to be set aside as one of those “childish things.” Was it? Perhaps. More likely though, it was simply a lesson that I would find repeated throughout my adult life. Give lip service to freedom of speech, but don’t ever use it.