Pact Press sits down with Steve Gutierrez, who offers thoughtful insight on the writing craft and on the duty of writers in a polarized age. Pact Press is very proud to include Steve’s article “Our President-Elect Causes Chest Pains and an ER Visit on Thanksgiving,” in our inaugural anthology.
I’ve been writing since I was eighteen but there have been long stretches, like years, when I wasn’t writing, not by choice but because of whatever was going on inside my head that made it impossible. The writing has changed in a lot of ways, from the composition of sentences, their feel and texture, to a leap into more hybrid forms. I don’t respect genre boundaries. I could care less what anybody else thinks about it.
3. What appealed to you about being a part of the Pact Press Speak and Speak Again anthology?
I was pretty upset by the election of Donald Trump, feeling a nascent evil in the air that I do not think was imaginary. He gave the green light to many hateful people and groups, at least psychologically, and that mood of vengefulness permeated the atmosphere. I do believe that our inner states manifest themselves in very real changes in the air, again—in the air came a foul odor of fear and terror. Writing against it helped dispel my feeling of powerlessness—the anthology gave me an opportunity to join with others to cleanse the air or at least add another breeze to it.
4. What do you think is the responsibility of the writer in today’s polarized environment?
It is the same as always, to write truthfully and honestly, but more urgently than ever before. The writer must disavow cant of any kind, even at the cost of alienating himself from his or her accustomed political circles, and spill his or her political guts out. Nobody must be demonized. We all wear horns. We all wear angel wings. Except for the avowed hate groups that are warped. We must write with the idea that the other side is not simple but variegated and composed of very intelligent people who can listen to reason and passionately expressed argument. We must be alive on the page in a way that is intelligible to opposing factions. We must be more human than ever, admitting our own prejudices and blindness.
5. What would you say to those who can’t understand why Trump has so many Latino supporters?
The so-called Latino community is much more diverse and split than the media would have it. There is a great divide between people who have been here for generations but in some way identify as Latino and those newly arrived immigrants and their children. It’s real simple. Many Latinos are Americans first and possess the same fears as other Americans about heavy immigration, particularly illegal immigration, and the browning of America. Skin color doesn’t matter much or necessarily mean anything. The question of where you stand has to do with culture. Many Spanish-surname Americans or last-generation true Latinos, you might say, are not comfortable with the rapidity with which society has become más Latino. They don’t even speak Spanish. They like Trump’s idea of a wall because they feel overwhelmed by illegal immigration. They do not like America changing in the direction of a culture that is not properly speaking theirs, or not theirs in any real way.