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Trying to Write Away a Wrong

Posted in: Blog by admin on January 18, 2011

Recently, a controversy over the use of the N-word in “Huckleberry Finn” received a lot of press and water-cooler talk.  This classic book, whose pages have been read and treasured by readers since 1885, has been the subject of much controversy ever since Mark Twain delivered it to our bedsides.  But, now, as a scholar is having the N-word replaced with the word “slave” in a new edition of the book, many people (including myself) are alarmed and disturbed.

I immediately think of all of the writers and musicians and artists whose works have enlightened and intrigued and inspired people while at the same time those works have offended, enraged and disturbed others.  That is art.  That is creativity.  That is expression.  It elicits reactions.  It promotes thought.  It even incites controversy.  But, that’s okay.  It’s better than okay.  It keeps us thinking and considering and feeling.  It allows and encourages us to have opinions.  If we don’t like a particular painting, we don’t have to stand there studying it.  If a rap song is offensive to us, we can change the station.  And, if we are scared that our children are going to be negatively impacted if they are exposed to it, well, then we haven’t yet given them the gift of knowing that creative works have a lot to do with the time in which they were made and the life experiences of the artist.  We haven’t even begun to teach them about the beauty of human expression.

When Jay Z refers to a woman as a “bitch” in his music, there is a context therein, a flow of feeling, a multitude of definitions for the word he passionately uses.  He even explained, after being challenged for his use of the word in the song “99 Problems,” that when he used the word “bitch” in the song, he was referring to not just women, but all kinds of drama and negativity, such as racist cops.  Also, there is a creative, poetic style that artists so wonderfully get lost in, wherein they use words and express emotions from their core.  They don’t worry about the political correctness as they’re erupting with emotional expression.  Fortunately, they’re more concerned with being authentic and true to their feelings as they let it flow from their lips, pens, paint brushes and keypads.

Once again, there was recently an emission of complaints over some of Jay Z’s lyrics that were “blasphemously anti-Christian.”  And, what did some try to do? They attempted to keep it off the air … away from our precious children’s ears!  What is wrong with us?  Are we really that compulsively controlling?  Can’t we let a multi-talented artist do his thing?  If we don’t want to embrace it and enjoy it and revel in its sounds, then we are free to not do so!

This terrifies me.  It terrifies me that we try to control, edit, change and censor so much that is artistically created today.  But, it scares me even more that some of us are even attempting to change the past.  Leave Twain’s 125-year-old literary masterpiece alone!

What is next? Do we reproduce all episodes of “All in the Family” because Archie Bunker’s words were hurtful and prejudiced?  Because he was a male chauvinist?  Do we not let Ralph in “The Honeymooners” threaten Alice that he is going to send her “to the moon” because, really, he is saying that he wants to punch her if she doesn’t back off?  That’s certainly sexist and could encourage violence upon women, right?

The ways in which we could alter past works so that we all are more “comfortable” is endless.  But history is exactly that.  History.  The past.  And the context of when things were written and said and created is so very relevant.  Twain’s words that were written a dozen decades ago were penned in a time in which we had slaves.  We actually thought is was okay to have human beings work, sweat, struggle (in shackles, if necessary) for us against their will.  It is sickening to remember how we treated each other.  It is upsetting to know how many of us still treat one another today.  But, Twain’s words don’t add to our narcissistic, selfish, greedy, egotistical, evil ways of the past and of today … our insane notion that we are omnipotent beings who can alter the past hurt us much, much more.

We can and should be grateful for the many ways in which we have evolved socially, politically and artistically.  Let’s not fall of the ladder that we have so carefully climbed by now thinking that we have the right to re-write history.

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One Response to “Trying to Write Away a Wrong”

  1. Sue love says:

    How do you come up with this stuff? Amazing again, like you!! Xo

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