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Friday, January 7, 2011

Raping Twain

Via news feeds and blog posts I've learned that thinking civilization has collapsed in my absence.

The Mob, in it's infinite lack of wisdom, has decided that the best way to avoid future conflicts is to erase our species history.

This isn't the first time this tactic has been employed. Erasing history is practically the mantra of various groups throughout history. A certain young Egyptian king erasing his mother/aunt/sister (the only female Pharaoh) from monuments comes to mind. Various religious groups tearing down statues and burning books. Paranoid men painting over classic artwork because sheep in a pastoral setting is scandalous and crude...

What vandal is out destroying human heritage, you might ask?

Why, good old Censorship and Political Correctness. This time attacking Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

To delete a word.

To delete an obscenity.

Think very, very hard about what that actually means. It is an obscene, volatile, reactionary, hateful, racist, slur. It is a degrading term that should never be used on anyone. Much like words starting with I, B, F, or several words starting with S.

Please raise your hand if you have never used a derogatory term on another human being. Even in writing. Even in jest.

Those with their hands still up are dismissed. Go shine your halo or something.

For all the rest of you, consider what would happen if someone turned around in a few years and decided to remove all the contemptuous, degrading slang from your novel.

Imagine someone rummaging through your writing and "fixing" things to fit modern sensibilities (whatever that might be in the years to come).

I fully agree that there are some words that should never be spoken. There are things you should never do to another living human being. Atrocities should never be committed.

But they are.

Bad things happen.

Bad things happened in the past. Bad things will happen in the future.

Erasing the evidence of the Holocaust won't bring back the dead. Removing words from a book won't change a historic culture so that the words were never said.

The worst thing we can do is gloss over the horrors of human history and shove them under a rug where future generations cannot learn from them.

What does removing the N-word from Huckleberry Finn teach anyone? Does it open a discussion point on appropriate language, changing social mores, acceptance, tolerance, or intolerance? Does it erase the word from use?

Really?

Try a Google search. See how many books pop up, many of them autobiographies. Google the word as a lyric. See how many songs come up. Songs on the radio.

But The Mob demands this word be removed from a book, from instructional courses, because it might cause offense.

I want to bang my head on the wall.

Education should not be a safe haven of white-bread thinking. It should never be a place so drained of idea, color, and controversy that students never learn to think. By taking away a book that invites discussion of discrimination we close a door on that conversation. In effect, we say, "You no longer need to learn this."

This professor is trying to erase history. Trying to erase a part of the culture that birthed our modern sensibilities.

Yes, slavery is horrid. Slavery is a terrible thing. Buying and selling people like a piece of furniture is horrible.

Slavery still exists.

Slavery and discrimination still needs to be discussed.

Students still need to see what discrimination is so that they can learn from those past mistakes and not repeat them.

Does raping Twain's writing to please the literary terrorists of the world do anyone any good?

No.

Leave the words.

5 comments:

  1. "They who ignore history are doomed to repeat it!" Let the words stand as a lesson.

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  2. Gosh this entire thing just makes me so damn mad! They should leave the book alone! If kids can watch strangers marry for money, and play video games that have guts splattering left and right. They can read the word Nigger! >Grrr<

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  3. I'm even more worried about the precedent. How many classic novels have offensive language in them?

    How many novels period have offensive language in them?

    At what point do the censures stop tearing into classic literature and turn to burning modern books?

    Right or wrong those words exist. The meanings exist. The thoughts behind them exist. Until someone starts a dialogue and starts talking about an offensive topic it remains the pink elephant in the room.

    If you really want to get rid of offensive things, educate people about the topic. If you find a word objectionable, tell people why. Take back the word. Give it a new meaning. Or give people a new idea to work with.

    You can't pretend it doesn't exist.

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  4. This is all about limiting Free Speech. After all, censorship is everywhere. The gov’t (and their big business cronies) censor free speech, shut down dissent and ban the book “America Deceived II”. Free speech for all, especially Mark Twain.
    Last link (before Google Books bans it also]:
    http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000190526

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  5. Well said, Liana. What really scares me is the idea of schools becoming a place where we AVOID the ideas and words that make us uncomfortable. If we ignore those things then we are never going to change them.

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