Well I am glad to be back behind the keyboard and turning out more material. Not that it’s exactly high quality literature here but I enjoy it. It’s been a few weeks since the item I want to address has been in the news but as you all know I’ve been a little under the weather so I am just now getting around to this posting.
Recently there was an incident in which a publisher announced they were reissuing a highly edited version of the Mark Twain classic Tom Sawyer. In this newly edited version the word nigger has been replaced by the word slave. Now I understand that a great many people find this word to be offensive in any sense regardless of historical or literary context. What I don’t understand is how some people can allow a simple word to have so much power over them. Why do they give this word, or any other word, so much power? It’s only a word and in reality it has no more power or effect than any other word unless one gives it the ability to hurt or embarrass or scare or anger them. It’s just a word. I typed it on my computer and it did not lock the machine up or unleash any insidious viruses and the sky did not fall down because it is only a word. But that is not the primary purpose of this posting.
The main point of this piece is that censorship of any kind is seldom a good thing. Each day I see and hear things that I find to be mildly offensive. And if I watch Family Guy or South Park I sometimes see or hear things that almost revolt me. But no matter how much or how little something offends me, I NEVER presume that I have the right to edit it and make it more to my own taste or liking. What do I do if I find something to be in poor taste or even outright offensive? I turn the channel, or change the radio station or close the book but it has never occurred to me to take the stance that my ideas and feelings are more important than the message being presented. If I find something offensive I simply choose not to view, listen or read the material. Case closed. I never contact the author or publisher of the material and ask them to change it so that I will no longer find it offensive.
The whole premise of this replacing one word with another simply because we don’t agree with it or the context that it entails caused me to reflect on the matter and here are some of the things that came to mind. Of course we have to realize that what one person finds offensive another may find amusing or perhaps even important. And if we can edit one book, hey let’s just say it’s okay to edit all books.
Let’s start with the Bible. Tired of those pesky pangs of guilt that you feel after banging your neighbor’s wife like a screen door? No worries my good man, we’ll just get out the magic pen and edit that commandment about adultery right out. Whew… there’s a load of our shoulders. Feel that you are entitled to a nicer car but have some misgivings about stealing one? Don’t worry we’ll just go ahead and remove “Thou shall not steal” from the Bible as well.
Why stop at the Bible? Let’s just alter history books (more so than we already have) as well and delete anything we find offensive. The Plague was a horrendous time of great tumult and death. But since we are “nicifying” things (Yep I made that word up just for you all). From this day forward The Black Plague as it has commonly been called will henceforth be known as “a bug that went around Europe a few centuries ago.” I think that is a far less offensive or dire phrase, don’t you? Let’s go ahead and strike the word Holocaust as it refers to the ethnic cleansing or Final Solution as the Nazis called it. We’ll just simplify the entire ordeal and call it “a multiple homicide in parts of Europe during the 1930’s & ‘40’s.”
Wait, I have to police and edit myself because I just used the word Nazi in the preceding paragraph. We’re going to have to get rid of the word Nazi and replace it with the term, “a political party popular with European citizens of Germanic heritage.” Wow, that sounds so much better when I read it back to myself.
As for other works of literature I have decided that I don’t like the name of the character Bilbo Baggins. What kind of stupid messed up name is Bilbo? Baggins makes me think of a scrotum so I think we need to edit Tolkien’s works and change his name to Tony Dorsett. That way I don’t have to think about a scrotum bounding to and fro around Middle Earth. And if we change his name to Tony Dorsett I won’t have to use my imagination to figure out what he looks like because I already know what Tony Dorsett looks like. I can just see him running through the hills with Gandalf and Frodo and Gollum and the gang, his little 33 jersey fluttering in the breeze as he sings his little Hobbit songs. Yeah that’s better,,, the other way offended me where it talked about him being short with hairy feet.
Why stop with the written word? We have the technology to alter other forms or art as well. I mean let’s face it Mona Lisa is NOT that attractive. What say we just air brush her to look like Cindy Crawford because we find her current appearance to be offensive? Sure, we could just look away if we don’t find her appealing. But remember, it’s all about changing and altering what we don’t like regardless of the artist’s concept.
I remember back in either the 1980’s or early ‘90’s Ted Turner decided that since a great many people preferred color movies to black and white he would take some of the cinematic classics and colorify them for folks. Yes I also just made up the word colorify but one can do that in Blogland. I’m certain that some English or grammar teacher will want to edit this piece because this word offends them. Well good luck, it’s password protected. Anyway let me move on. Getting back to ted Turner and his desire to colorify stuff, at a great financial cost as I recall, there was one man who stood up and fought back. Orson Welles said the following as he knew he was not long for this world, “Keep Ted Turner and his goddamned Crayolas away from my movies.” To my knowledge it worked. As far as I know none of Welles films have been ‘colorified.’ Way to go Orson, you made all us fat guys look good. Oh wait, can I say fat? What if someone is offended? Better do a rewrite…. Way to go Orson, you presented all of us people of 'enhanced density' in a very positive light.
If Sam Clements were alive today he might decide to do his own rewrite. And if that were the case, that would be okay because it would be at the decision of the author not someone else who decided that they would take it upon themselves to modify the meaning and context of his work. But Sam is gone and I am guessing that his works have fallen into the realm of Public Domain where anyone can do with them as they please.
I could go on and on about how asinine it is to censor things simply because we don’t like them or don’t understand them or perhaps even fear them. But the fact of the matter is that nothing will ever make all of the people happy all of the time and we have to understand and accept this. To do otherwise is simply ignorant