I think my love affair with the written word is fairly well documented. Lately, however, I have been reading some things that I find very disturbing, regarding books. It is weighing heavily on me and it needs to be said. Since this won't be my usual light hearted romp of a blog, I promise to keep this as brief as possible.
I want to go on record as saying that I oppose censorship. I so strongly oppose censorship that if ever I was going to write letters of protest or march on the capitol or say inflammatory things publicly it would most likely be regarding censorship. My father once told me that there is no such thing as bad information. It's what a person does with the information given that matters. I support that statement. I honestly believe that nobody has the right to tell me what to read or how to think. My first thought when someone attempts to censor me is always, "How dare you!"
Therefore, while I was dismayed to find that the Laura Ingalls Wilder award will be striped of her name because people find some of her depictions of Native Americans offensive. I also know that it's their award, they can name it what they wish, they can change the name, they can do whatever they like. And sadly, I am told that in a knee-jerk reaction, her books are now being removed from libraries.
HOWEVER, it seems that we are not keeping in mine here that Ms. Wilder was writing what she knew as a child a VERY long time ago, (Ms Wilder now being long deceased) and that it was an accurate depiction of the time. Not just the day to day hardships of struggling against the elements of nature or building a cabin or keeping your family fed without modern conveniences but her work also accurately portrays the social conventions, the attitudes, the ignorance of the time. The words need to be put into the context of the history.
It needs to be born in mind that the awards people are not saying that she was a poor writer, or that her books have not been enjoyed by millions for generations. The only justification for their action is that some people are offended by her word choices about specific incidents. The author wrote what she knew, about how she lived. She was honest and genuine about her life.
Do her words depict our current attitudes and sensitivities and understanding? No they don't. Of course they don't. She didn't write it now. She isn't even alive now so how could her words written so long ago reflect our attitudes today?
I've been through this before. For instance when people took offense at the words of Mark Twain and pulled his books off the shelves for much the same sort of reasons. I was heart-broken that future generations will not know the beautifully written, rich, full portrayals of life in his time. Were some of his words offensive to us? Yes, definitely. Were they, again, an accurate depiction of his life in his time period? One more time, yes they were.
Re-writing history does not change what happened. Removing "offensive" literature from book shelves doesn't make it go away. It happened. There were people who were slaves in this country. And in every other country in the world. There are still some people who are enslaved in the world. This is a terrible thing. It should never have happened. But it did. And pretending that it didn't doesn't mean that it never existed. The expansionists that moved the boundaries of the United States of America all the way to the pacific ocean did a terrible thing by villainizing the Native American peoples so that they could justify what was done. BUT the fact of the matter is, that it happened. And all of the re-writing in the world, all of the censoring, all of the book removals, the bannings and the burnings do not change that fact.
Here is the biggest issue for me. If our society is successful at removing any hint of anything "bad" that ever happened, how are we supposed to learn from our mistakes? If future generations are not allowed to learn the truth of the things we did wrong, how are they going to know how to do it right?
My apologies for getting serious and ranting today.
I'm done now.
I'll be back tomorrow in a much better frame of mind, I promise!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.