Memorial Day was celebrated last weekend, but its actual day was yesterday, 30 May. We take time to remember those who have gone before us, in particular those who have shed their blood and laid their lives at Freedom’s altar.
I think sometimes we understand this in a generic sense, as an ephemeral concept that applies to Mom and apple pie, hot dogs and bbq, football, baseball, etc. But how many of us take the time to wonder how our bought freedoms affect us personally?
We think about it further, and we usually arrive at concepts such as freedom of speech, politics, the ability to debate—hotly debate—without pulling guns on each other. We also think of owning guns, deciding which church we want to attend—or not attend—as part of that freedom.
All of this is true.
But what about the arts? What about music, and movies, and books? Not just political books, or philosophical books, or even scientific books.
What about Star Wars books? Or my own books?
I’ve spent a lot of time studying comparative religion. It’s informed my writing and offered template on which to model fantasy religions and fantasy civilizations. Furthermore, our nation and way of life has been under attack from Islamic extremists seeking to prosecute jihad. As such, I’ve spent some time studying that particular mindset, partially for world-building purposes in my fantasy writing, but also to be aware of what is going on in the world.
I’ve spent some time reading Sharia law, using one of the mainstream texts published for the English-speaking Islamic world: Reliance of the Traveller (incidentally, there are more English-speaking Muslims across the world than Arabic-speaking Muslims, so it makes sense there would be an approved English version).
Sharia has many precepts, governing all aspects of life. It has the ones we’ve come to think of in the West as applying to Islamic extremists, from strict prohibitions on gender roles, sexual behaviors, and the punishments for men and women who transgress such roles. And, prohibitions against things like music, as we’ve all heard on the news as to what life was like under Taliban rule.
But it’s not the particulars that made me go “huh” as eye-raising as some of them are. The overall theme of the text, and the introductions, and some of the more philosophical lead-ins really struck me. What ended up happening in extreme Islam, which led to things like banning even music… and kite flying… is the idea that there can be no happiness outside of Allah.
What this leads to, in this extreme application, is the idea that there can be no fun outside of a worshipful context. Music is banned. Recreation is banned. Kite flying is banned. Anything that is outside of the context of strict religious worship and way of life is seen as a harmful distraction, and takes someone away from Allah when they could otherwise be spending that time worshipping. (Incidentally, this notion of all-encompassing, all-consuming way of life that is bent in every way to the worship of a single deity was the inspirational model for the God-King’s religion in the third part of Lightfall).
Which brings me back full circle to Memorial Day. The United States has been threatened by and fought against many totalitarian ideologies, from the original concepts of monarchy and the Divine Right of Kings, to fascism in World War II, to Soviet communism during the Cold war, and now jihad from Islamic extremist organisations and individuals. Each of these have this totalitarian practice in common: they want to control what people are allowed to say, to create, to express. They want to control (or wipe out) our art. Some of it is politically motivated. Anything that challenged the authority of the Nazi or Soviet parties was banned. In the extreme case of fundamentalist Islamic Sharia, fun that exists as an ends unto itself is banned.
Art is one of Freedom’s fruits. Writing stories, science-fiction and fantasy, is one of Freedom’s fruits.
So, last weekend as I spent the Memorial Day holiday writing The Tides of Artalon (final book of the trilogy), I stopped and reflect upon what that day was about.
And I realized then that spending my time creating stories was an ideal celebration of freedom, purchased by the blood and lives of those who sacrificed at Freedom’s altar.
So I raised my mug and said, “F–k yeah!” and then went back to my writing.
Until next week!