Apparently, with the Amendments to the Constitution, Americans have the freedom of speech until we die, at which time someone else can deem something you've written to be inappropriate, and since you cannot defend yourself, that someone can then censor the text.
This is the alarming reality that is thrust upon the new year in the US. NPR has just today released an Associated Press article (NPR.org) on the calamity that NewSouth Books, and Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben, are bringing about in Alabama. It seems that no one in America is mature enough to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that Mark Twain originally wrote.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the fourth most banned book in the US, despite the fact many of the terms that cause it to be deemed inappropriate, were in fact used in a politically correct sense for the time, and it was published in 1885. In the spirit of Mark Twain I say FUCK political correctness altogether. The reality is this: the story has Huck Finn, a young boy, as its protagonist in a world where "nigger" would have been said more than the 219 times that it appears throughout the work. Twain depicts a real world that his young male adventures in, and he does not sugarcoat one of America's greatest works of fiction.
The reality that characters of slaves, such as the escaped "Jim", or characters of Native Americans, such as "Injun Joe" should be censored to children of any age over six is absurd. Why can a historical book of fiction, that correctly depicts a world that the protagonist lived in over a hundred and twenty plus years ago, not be realized as a historically accurate account of fiction by students in middle schools and high schools? Are Americans too stupid to be explained that the term "nigger" that is used by Mark Twain was by no means meant to be derogatory in any way? Did not Mark Twain seek to bring about sympathy for our African American brothers and sisters (and far ahead of his time I might add)? Would our young students still be offended if the historical works were explained to them from the onset?
Alan Gribben is working with NewSouth Books to release editions of Mark Twain's writing that will exclude the "N-word" and also change something as innocent as "Injun Joe" to "Indian Joe" and make "half-breed" into "half-blood". Why? "Injun" is clearly written this way to invoke an accent and not insult anyone. What is next? Are we to take every instance of violence that is seen through the eyes of a child, such as Huck Finn, and then censor that? Clearly our parenting and teaching do not factor into out kids' moral behavior as much as 19th century adventure stories written by perhaps the greatest American author and artist of all time.
I thank God that I grew up in New York at a time where I was allowed to read Mark Twain's masterpieces. And I read them uncensored. I hope that people will wake up, remember the First Amendment and speak out, so that my future children can also read significant pieces of literature uncensored.
Please continue to email Gribben about this atrocity and continue to spread the word that censorship is mortally harmful to art and literature in particular. He says that people email and complain, but skirt the issue because they do not use the "N-word"; well I say that if "nigger" is not meant in a derogatory matter then by all means include "nigger" in the emails to this farce of a Twain scholar.
The solution is not to censor the books so that schools do not ban them, it is to get the schools to open their minds and teach the uncensored American classics. Should others govern the way we live our lives? I have a feeling Mark Twain would have said, "Fuck no!" to that.
By R.J. Huneke