What interests me about politics in fiction is how it informs the lives of characters. This is true for both those characters who share my own personal political outlook and those who don't. Although I always like to think that those who don't aren't all that different from me. I wrote a story once about a man who sat in a bar I used to go to and would yell about communists when he got drunk. In the story I thought of how I'd like to tell him about my father, who was in a communist party in Iran and who was tortured for his beliefs as a young man, and I thought if I did, he'd go easy on his yelling because he and I used to have nice conversations when he was sober.
Political beliefs can matter a lot, in stories and in life, and they can not matter at all. I grew up in a very political family, and my father encouraged me to read the books of guys like Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo, because of the socio-political messages they carried. When I first started to write, I went in another direction, because I wanted to see what else people were, beside their political beliefs. I wanted to find what people of different beliefs had in common. Simply put, it was this: living is hard for everybody.
That is still my starting point. But once that is established, once I feel that I can write about each character with an awareness that living is a hard one for them, then I think that political beliefs can be very revealing in terms of who they are. A writer only runs the risk of being preachy or dogmatic if he or she makes a character of one political belief less three-dimensional and human than that of another.
When I was a younger man, I might've yelled back at the guy in the bar. Now, I tell myself: Just listen. Listen and remember your father. Listen and trust that if the man yelling were to see your father tortured in prison, he would not be so sure in his yelling. Maybe you'll get a chance to talk about that with him next time he's sober, with fairness and love for everybody. And if not with him, then maybe with somebody.
That is what I want to do in life and that is what I want to do with writing: Talk in a way that keeps the conversation going. That is what keeps the humanity going.
I know somebody might hear that and say, okay, but what are you advocating?
I'm a writer. I advocate for people.