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This world has seen many tragedies.  There countless incidents of natural and man-made disasters to pick from as we look back over the history of man.  And, while it hardly ranks up there with the tragedies involving loss of life or man’s inhumanity to man, the erosion of cultural heritage and the watering down of the various aspects of our shared human experience is among the most troubling.

The most glaring example of this phenomenon is the continuing spread and evolution of the movement toward “Political Correctness.”  Rarely has a euphemism so misleading been invented.  The Political Correctness movement is nothing more than a watering down of our culture, a neutering of creative thought, and a coddling of our society by those in power.

The world is not now, nor has it ever been a perfect place.  Some answers are wrong.  Sometimes you lose.  And, every once in a while, you are going to be offended.  That’s life.  Learning to cope with the disappointments and offenses, whether big or small, is part of what builds up the strength of human character and spirit.  Without undergoing a little tribulation from time to time we will do the cultural and societal equivalent of running to Mommy with tears in our eyes any time life gives us a splinter.

One of the greatest travesties that this movement creates is the silencing or purifying of or literary history.  And they are at it again.

Publisher’s Weekly recently reported that NewSouth Books will be doing a little purification to the American classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” They intend to publish their new edition of the book with the removal of the offensive “N-word” and the word “Injun.”

Now, I am not insensitive to the hurt these words have caused over the course of time.  And, I am not one who would ever use such racist and hate-filled language myself.  The problem here, however, is that we are changing a classic piece of our culture that gives us a snapshot of life and society of the days in which it was created.

Twain’s voice in this novel was not one of hate.  We are not talking about some sort of racist propaganda piece that looked to sow hatred and violence in its readers.  The changing of the language used by the author is an alteration of his intent.  It changes the very character of the work and makes it lose some of its message and relevance.  It is, simply put, censorship.

I know the arguments.  I have heard all about protecting our children from such venomous concepts.  I have listened to the claims that such things offend and have no place in education.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I think it is of paramount importance that our youth are exposed to this sort of thing.  I think that without seeing within the cultural hallmarks of the day the ease with which it became acceptable to discriminate we will fail to give the bravery of people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. their proper respect.  If we coddle our children and protect them from the evil that was, and still lingers in the underbelly of our society, they will fail to see the absolute importance and relevance that those who fought against it have even today.  If we whitewash all the things that would offend, hurt, or disturb us we will breed a generation which is utterly unable to truly stand up for itself.

Those who wish to censor and ban books should do some reading themselves.  May I suggest Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and Orwell’s “1984” as good places to start.  That is, of course, assuming they haven’t been censored for being too disturbing.


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