Knowledge Is The Tool For One Man's Left-Wing Utopia
Seattle Times Staff Columnist
Saab Lofton is young and passionate, to my mind a little excessive in his embrace of conspiracy theories, but it's hard to argue with his ideals. He wants a world where race and class don't matter, where no one is poor and everyone is well educated.
Since we don't live in such a world, he created one in a book he wrote as a college student.
"A.D." begins in the near future when Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan and White Aryan Resistance head Tom Metzger conspire to take over the United States through nuclear blackmail.
They expel people who are neither black nor white and divide the parts of the country they control into two nations, one black, one white, both repressive.
What rescues the country is knowledge.
Lofton, inspired by the social commentary in "Star Trek," often uses science fiction to explore volatile issues.
Throughout the book he sprinkles ideas and information about gender, religion, diet, education, the Kennedy assassination (through time travel we learn the truth) - you name the issue and it gets examined here, sometimes humorously. The story, complete with a climatic shootout in the sky, is good enough to make the book a fun read.
What pushed Lofton to write the book is his conviction that some people can't tell right from left politically. He says people think of the Nation of Islam as a radical organization when really he says it is capitalistic and right wing.
You might have seen Lofton, at the Northwest Bookfest last weekend. It's kind of hard to miss a guy in dreadlocks and a superhero outfit - tights and a cape hanging from his shoulders - but Lofton wasn't drawing a lot of attention to his small table; maybe, he thinks, he blended in with the Cat in the Hat or the person dressed as a lemon.
Mostly Lofton doesn't blend in.
While most Americans have shifted politically rightward in recent years, there are still a few folks trying to tug us way left and Lofton is one of them.
He has taken to heart the message of "It's a Wonderful Life," that one person can make a difference, and says he has committed his life to turning this country to the left.
Lofton, 29, describes himself as "a life-long nerdy bookworm," who has been inspired by "Star Trek's" vision of an egalitarian future in which every person is an intellectual, by his mother's '60s activism, and by reading Noam Chomsky and Dick Gregory.
His mother, who is Irish, Fijian and Native American, went from working for Black Power in the '60s to Red Power in the '90s. Her current cause is freeing Indian activist Leonard Peltier.
Lofton barely knew his biological father. His mother remarried when Lofton was in elementary school. His stepfather was in the Air Force, so the family traveled a lot. Lofton says he never had a chance to put down roots, so books became his friends.
"I read Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling and Dick Gregory - he was the most fun to read because he was funny. He made learning about politics so easy for me."
His politics were also shaped by a year he spent living on the streets.
Lofton wrote "A.D." while a student at San Francisco State University and spent so much time hawking the book when it was published three years ago that his grades began to fall and the university cut off his financial aid.
He dropped out a few credits shy of getting his film degree and moved in with his mother in Bremerton.
He works as a health aide at a middle school in Bremerton and wants to teach history some day.
While other guys are dating, he's doing research at the library, copying flyers, selling books in the rain at the Pike Place Market. "I have no life. I'm a walking billboard."
He gave me a stack of materials copied from newspapers, magazines, FBI files showing contact between the Nation of Islam and white right-wing groups, including a mention in Time magazine of Metzger making a donation to the Nation while attending a Farrakhan speech in Los Angeles.
In "A.D." the black nation becomes a place Jesse Helms could love. Work is glorified, homosexuals straightened out, prayer mandatory and uncomfortable ideas censored.
The major character in the story is caught with a smuggled copy of the "Autobiography of Malcolm X" and as punishment is turned over to a scientist who needs a subject for a cryogenics experiment.
The character is frozen and when his capsule is discovered, it is 2410 and there is a new world order, no armies, no poverty. Workers own their businesses, clothing is optional, drugs are available, each person is left to determine her own path. Cars fly and aliens walk the streets, having decided humans were finally worthy of contact.
Lofton believes people in our democracy can't make real choices because they don't have complete information and it has become his mission to fill in the blanks.
You can get his new book, "Battle Neverending," at Left Bank Books (surprise), and "A.D." is available from III Publishing, P.O. Box 1581, Gualala, CA.
What I like most about Lofton is is enthusiasm for books and ideas. He's convinced anyone who reads widely and thinks freely will lean leftward. Maybe. What's certain is that we'd be a lot better off if more people examined their beliefs.
Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.