TRUMAN CAPOTE NEEDS YOUR VOTE!
Even today, let alone in the volatile years between 1968 and 1972, it is impossible to reconcile the fundamental contradiction between supporting the police and supporting the Free Angela movement. And I think this is exactly why Capote didn’t vote. He wasn’t ducking politics or surrendering to apathy and hedonism (though he did that plenty enough, too). Capote was a consummate newshound, and he was as finely attuned to politics at all levels as any major political pundit or PolySci professor, then or now. What he hated about voting was the way it arguably forced him, as indeed it forces anyone, to commit to a single ideology, to a finite way of thinking. In his mind, voting to support the police would betray his support for Free Angela, and vice versa.
That’s the point Capote was trying to make in his interviews, which explains his clever performance of dodging his own question to himself. He could have avoided the issue of politics altogether. But instead, by raising the question and then failing to give an adequate answer, he reminds us of two things. First, politics is unavoidable and important, both in the world and in his writing. He spoke all the time about his opposition to the death penalty (though not for the reasons you’d expect), and you simply can’t ignore that if you want to understand In Cold Blood. Secondly, however, he’s also reminding us that we shouldn’t read his work solely by how it speaks to the issues of his time. Just as Capote could “hold two opinions in [his] mind at the same time,” his writing operates on more than just one level of meaning.
This definition of style is also a recipe for voting and living. Voting is nothing if not a foray into the domain of the explicit and emphatic. But if we vote with style, then we can think of our vote as something both smaller and larger than itself at the same time. A vote doesn’t have to be a dull capitulation to a single way of thinking. It can also be a blade of grass, a hint and suggestion of the larger, richer “universe of summer” we hope to live in every day. The trick is not to mistake the blade of grass for the universe itself. Be specific when you vote, but don’t be single-minded. Make sure you vote for the whole summer, not just the grass. Otherwise you’ll find yourself holding that little blade of grass on a prairie of scorched earth.