On that curiously timed work of fiction by John Andrews

Author: John Tomasic - February 10, 2017 - Updated: February 12, 2017

Illustrations from "Susan Washington" by John Andrews.
Illustrations from “Susan Washington” by John Andrews.

John Andrews is a major figure in the conservative Colorado political ecosystem. He is a former state Senate president, founder of the Independence Institute, former director of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute and former chairman of its annual Western Conservative Summit.

He is also now, after a fashion, a writer of short fiction.

His “Susan Washington: A Love Story” made it into the Colorado political conversation via Twitter, naturally, but also first through his Backbone America email subscriber list, where it appeared attached to a cover letter.

“Dear Friend of Freedom,” it begins. “After four decades with five think tanks, I’m still at work every day on writing that aims to make us all think. Think deeper. Think truer.

“It ranges from my daily Bible blog to my two handbooks for conservatives to my recent essay on American greatness. Turning the page into 2017 and a whole new political landscape, I’ve now also ventured into fiction with a little story about a senator at the crossroads.”

Could the timing of the story’s appearance have been coincidental?

The Colorado Capitol from early morning to late in the evening was filled with visitors, many of them there for a House committee hearing at which members were considering three Republican-sponsored anti-abortion bills. HB 1085 was a so-called TRAP bill, or one that targets abortion providers for government regulation in the name of women’s safety. HB 1086 would require doctors to tell women seeking abortions through medication that a reversal procedure was also available — even though abortion reversal medication  has never been fully clinically tested and lack FDA approval. HB 1108 was a “personhood” bill aimed at protecting life at conception by making the termination of a fertilized ovum at any stage a class 1 felony.

Crowds came to view or report on the proceedings and many came to testify. Many hours after the hearing began, it ended as expected. None of the bills made it past the Democratic majority members of the committee.

The Susan Washington figure at the heart of Andrews’s short fiction is a black legislative aide to a liberal state senator. She doesn’t support the “bitterness and anger” espoused by today’s millennial black Americans and she is in the throes of what has come to be known in pro-life circles as an abortion regret crisis — so much so that she has convinced her boss to support a proposed “fetal pain bill” that would require doctors to administer anesthesia to the fetus when performing abortions.

“If our state had a fetal pain bill like Utah…” she wishes out loud while “half-sobbing.”

“I was thinking if it had been the law when I and my boyfriend were dealing with this pregnancy, we wouldn’t have had the abortion,” the character emotionally confesses. “Not just the legal requirements, but the whole message it sends. ‘That’s not a choice, it’s a child.’ I used to think that bumper sticker was so lame. Not any more.”

Students of fiction will find no interesting advances here in style or form. Cliches abound. There is a “salt of the earth” Christian college graduate who is an Army veteran and small business entrepreneur. There is a lobbyist with “a ton of Irish-Italian moxie.” There is a waggish member of “the snoopy press,” which is at bottom a truism but better perhaps than “the lying media.” There is also Susan Washington, who is described as an “elegant” tall woman and referred to by the pressman in the story as “an attractive basketball star.”

Creating characters to make arguments about race and reproductive politics in America is a fraught business. It’s not real fiction, though. Fiction is about exploration through the senses using merely words on a page — and that is a kind of magic. It manages to present characters and settings that force readers to experience complexity and contradiction to arrive at a richer understanding of the mysteries and frustrations of being human.

This is not that. This is writing by John Andrews, who has tried his hand at fiction and who remains a major and well-respected figure in the conservative Colorado political ecosystem.

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.