“‘ “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.'” — Orson Scott Card
The latest post-conference mishagosh comes to us courtesy of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), which gave this year’s Margaret A. Edwards Award to Orson Scott Card for his works, Ender’s Game (1985) and Ender’s Shadow.
If you know anything about Card’s views about homosexuality — or about the Edwards award,which “recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world” — that’s like the Anti-Defamation League giving Bobby Fisher a lifetime achievement award.
In all fairness to the committee, if they had asked the general question “what do we know about Orson Scott Card” (and whether you think the committee should have done that is open for discussion; I say yes, that’s due diligence), it would have taken some effort to uncover Card’s virulent homophobia, and you’d almost have to be looking for it.
A Google search for Orson Scott Card (10 results per page) lists 9 neutral or positive sites about OSC. I had to get to get to the 10th link to read a Salon article (by Donna Minkowitz, a lesbian, no less) in which the author notes on the first page, “But I’d somehow failed to ascertain that Card was a disgustingly outspoken homophobe.”
(Note: the spell-check in WordPress doesn’t even recognize “homophobe” as a word. Then again, it also doesn’t recognize “WordPress.”)
The real damage is in that bastion of impartiality, Wikipedia. Card’s Wikipedia article barely references his opinions about homosexuality, and only in an external link; to get a fuller story, you’d have to go to the Talk page and then look for it. You certainly won’t find Card’s own words on the topic, which include:
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 who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.
Dudes and dudettes, that’s hard-core! Even most “compassionate conservatives” don’t speak that directly, not even when they agree with Card.
But if you read this blog you know I have written that Wikipedia often seems more like a Secret Treehouse Club than everyone’s encyclopedia. Card’s Wikipedia page isn’t a biography, it’s an encomium by true believers who maintain fierce control over Card’s myth.
As for Bobby Fisher, his Wikipedia page references Fisher’s anti-Semitism. Despite all the babble on Card’s Talk page, if there’s a consistent rule about what can be said about an author, I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is.
Besides, as Tracy Nectoux said on GLBTRT-L, short of saying gays should be trucked to death camps, homophobic comments by famous people don’t warrant sustained attention in the public sphere. This tsuris only occasioned a strong article in School Library Journal and mild back-pedaling from the awards committee, who said that they hadn’t researched Card prior to this award (I cringe when “information professionals” say things like that) and furthermore — ladies and gentlemen, prepare to hoist an eyebrow or two — “personal views aren’t part of the selection criteria.”
In terms of who we as a profession honor as an association — or in terms of any work effort — we need to make clear-eyed choices. We don’t get a lot of choices in our lifetime, really, not for awards, or books to read, or people to love. Card took up time and energy that could have been directed to someone else. It wasn’t intentional, but what’s done is done.
Oh well. Next year in Jerusalem.
If the award did any good, it is this: many more librarians know the truth about Orson Scott Card.