Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Dangerous Can A Political Hobby Be?

Hi all!  Please help me welcome Paula Benson to Killer Hobbies today.  Politics as a hobby?  Tell us more, Paula!

Man is by nature a political animal. -- Aristotle

Although not usually thought of as a hobby, politics does capture people’s attention and fuel their imaginations. Political figures and their families become media sensations and fashion icons. Comedians’ routines and political cartoons parody politicians’ actions. Political polls are like sports statistics. Doris Kerns Goodwin, noted presidential historian, is universally praised for her work. Her website showcases a Christian Science Monitor quote indicating her popularity: “At 70, let's hope (Ms. Goodwin) has at least a couple more biographies in mind.”

Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

What is it about politics that seems to fascinate people? Growing up, I thought of politics as something adults watched on TV. It had too much rhetoric and too little action to keep my youthful attention. Politicians and political commentators expressed their opinions, which often resulted in arguments without resolution.

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed. -- Mao Tse-Tung
Then, in my first full time job, I shared an office with a co-worker who had a passion for state and national politics. He kept up with the issues and personalities, was an astute observer, listened carefully to what everyone had to say, and believed very strongly in a phase associated with the 55th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., (D. Mass.) that “all politics is local.”

In other words, constituents focus on the matters that affect them personally and their representatives need to be tuned in to what voters care about in order to serve them most effectively and remain in office. My co-worker taught me that politics are not just about debate or conflict, but evolve from matters that affect quality of life and deeply felt emotions.

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. -- Ronald Reagan

Davis Baldacci, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Brad Meltzer, and Brad Thor have made careers writing fictional views of the political process. Any time power is at stake, people in charge may be tempted. How they react to that temptation and how others investigate possible corruption can lead to dramatic consequences and page-turning suspense.

Crime does not pay . . . as well as politics. -- Alfred E. Newman

My short story in FISH OR CUT BAIT: A GUPPY ANTHOLOGY published by Wildside Press in April 2015 features Carolyn Louise Mitchell, called Caro, a newly elected independent State Senator. As Caro witnesses a filibuster about whether or not to get rid of a public employee by legislatively eliminating his job, she begins to wonder if it’s only a man’s career at stake, or if something criminal may be happening behind the scenes. The story’s title, “The Train’s on the Tracks,” comes from a saying that if legislation is moving forward that legislators need to decide whether to get a ticket to ride or stay off the track (and avoid getting run over).

I’ve discovered that my first impression of politic discussions was wrong. They offer plenty of ideas that allow writers to explore human conflict and possible mayhem.

Do you follow politics, as a profession or avocation? Do you enjoy political biographies or novels?

A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson’s short stories have appeared in Kings River Life, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media 2014), A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman (Mozark Press 2014), and Fish or Cut Bait: a Guppy Anthology (Wildside Press 2015). She regularly blogs with others about writing mysteries at the Stiletto Gang and Writers Who Kill. Her personal blog is Little Sources of Joy and her website is


Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome to Killer Hobbies, Paula. I wouldn't have thought of politics as a hobby but can see how a person can develop a fascination with it and with those who get involved in our government. I don't particularly understand why people put themselves out there that way, but I'm glad some of them do! (Then there are those I wish would just go home.) Thanks for your post and insight.

Monica Ferris said...

Oh, Linda, I second your parenthetical observation! If some of these people would just go home, it would clarify the political scene immeasurably!

Ramona said...

Very thoughtful post, Paula. Your FISH OR CUT BAIT story's setting was almost a character of its own.

Your comment about politics not being simply debate, but that they affect our quality of life--so very true, and therefore important. What's important is always a good start for storytelling.

Peter DiChellis said...

Enjoyed this post. What could be a more baffling mystery than politicians? BTW, a must-read site for political junkies: Top-notch articles culled from leading magazines, newspapers, websites, etc., and a great collection of polling data. All free to read.

Polly Iyer said...

I loved your FISH OR CUT BAIT story, Paula. I'm a political junkie, and there are times I get so caught up in the story of the day that I'm worthless as a writer. Actually, I can't understand people who aren't interested in politics as what happens in the political arena, whether statewise or national, affects their everyday life. Original subject matter for a blog post. Kudos.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Tracy, Linda, and Monica, thank you so much for this opportunity to guest today. I'm grateful to be here. You have a wonderful blog!

Ramona, thank you. I credit your expert editorial skill with helping me find the full potential for "The Train's on the Tracks." You are absolutely the best.

Thank you, Peter, for your kind words and for the link to a website I need to explore!

Polly, thank you. You're exactly right. What goes on in politics is something we all need to take an interest in and try to better understand. I'm so glad that you love the story. It's an honor to be in the anthology with you.

Pam De Voe said...

There are times when I'm a political junkie & then when I'm too tired of it all & just want to close my ears. But, of course, can't.

Very interesting and well written blog. I especially liked the way you interspersed the quotations in your piece. Fun.

Oh, and I do really enjoy politically oriented stories. Thanks for yours!

Kaye George said...

What a great discourse on what can be a difficult topic. I love those quotes, too. Excellent job, all the way around!

Linda Lovely said...

Good post, Paula. I also love the quotes. Unfortunately, politics invade any man-made institution. It's all about power. That's true in churches and home owner associations as well as Congress. It's a great source of conflict for writers. But when you're involved it can be a lot less entertaining.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Pam, Kaye, and Linda, thank you all for your kind words and for stopping by. You're exactly right, politics can be everywhere. As I was leaving my job at the university to work for the legislature, one of the professors said, "At least where you're going the politics will be out in the open." I used that phrase in "The Train's on the Tracks." What people say about politics tells so much. As Ramona said, it can be a character itself.