World Watch column by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card has written some of my favorite books, and his ideas have influenced my own in various ways. So when I came across his World Watch column, which he writes on a weekly basis, I was pretty excited. Until I started actually reading the columns. I knew Card was a devoted Mormon, but the stances he takes in these columns are so at odds with my own, it surprised me. Not only that, it was a great disappointment, because his arguments seem opposed to his own writing. In his book, Speaker for the Dead, the philosophy espoused is that nobody is evil in their own minds, that you can’t judge somebody merely by the results of their actions, but must include a recognition of their intentions. He even has his protagonist explicitly mock the Calvinist student who says “Murder is murder … If the act is evil, then the actor is evil.” So it shocked me to find Card making similar statements in his columns, calling gay marriage wrong, and drugs “devastatingly harmful”.

His inconsistencies also bother me. He was never particularly strong at consistency in his novels, but when he says things like we should be at peace with our bodies and “Even if a person is heavy because of his own choices, why does that give anybody else a reason to abuse them?” in one column, but tells gays that they should marry someone of the opposite sex if they want to be married, it bothers me. Of course, the fact that he’s struggled with his own weight problems probably gives him more sympathy to the fat people.

I could spend a lot of time deconstructing his arguments, but suffice it to say that his columns disappointed me greatly. Even the ones where I agreed with him were unconvincing because they suffered from the same sense of moral outrage. I guess I’m particularly sensitized to this because it’s one of my own failings as a writer. I assume that because something is obviously outrageous to me, it’s outrageous to everybody, and my ability to convince people disappears in a blaze of self-righteousness. So I understand why it happens. But it still makes me lose respect for Card the columnist. He’s still a good writer, especially in his use of adjectives to up the emotional quotient of his writing. But when he says that anybody who disagrees with him must be somebody out for personal gain, it’s a great disappointment coming from the same writer who once described the Speaker for the Dead, and his ability to see everybody else’s perspective.

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