Monday, October 12, 2009

This Headline is (BANNED!)

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.


A few weeks ago my daughter casually mentioned that HUCKLEBERRY FINN was banned by her school. No big deal in her mind. Of course she hadn’t read it, knew almost nothing about it, and was unaware that it has often been referred to as “the greatest American novel.” It brought to mind that song by Randy Newman, “Short People,” about people who put down certain other people, but are, in doing so, putting down “their own short selves.”

It was Banned Books Week at the start of the month. But I saw that the top banned and challenged books listed the Twain book, as well as another, FAHRENHEIT 451, a book about banning books… banning them by burning them. Let’s pause and just shake our heads. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” The question is, “Is there anyone left who does?”

I haven’t read the Mark Twain book since I was a kid in grade school. I read it out of curiosity, it wasn’t required, and after seeing that old movie from the ‘30’s on tv, TOM SAWYER, I wanted to know more. As I recall, though, Huck was friends with Jim, the runaway slave. They depended on each other when they set off down the river. They treated one another as equals. As much as two heterosexual young men can, they loved each other.

Ah, but, no matter, the educational elite might say, “We don’t speak of slavery in school, except in February during Black History month, when we teach how wrong it is! HUCKLEBERRY FINN treats slavery almost casually. It accepts it as present in the world, and that can be seen as tacit approval, if not by the characters, then by society. Children are not sophisticated enough to distinguish between society in the 19th century and society today.”

Uhhh, excuse me, but didn’t society in the 19th century fight a war with itself about that very thing? And didn’t it enact the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all the slaves? Racism, unfortunately, is still with us. Changing every person’s thinking is a bit harder than changing a society’s laws. But we’re working on it. And not just in February.

Banning HUCKLEBERRY FINN sets back the fight against slavery and racism! A child is innocent until changed by society. A child is not inherently racist. Reading the Twain novel is a perfect entry into discussing the subject of racism and how it was once allowed by societies going back thousands of years, and is still allowed by certain societies even today, ironically enough, in Africa. The book does not teach nor approve slavery or racism!

The “edu-crats” nod, knowingly, and agree: “You and I know that, but our school’s families are less familiar with the book. To them it’s a book involving slavery written by a white, southern, male, who lived in the time period when it was practiced. We have to be sensitive to their needs, their feelings. If a family complains, no matter if 2,000 others would disagree, we can’t enlighten that family, we have to respond and take action to protect their children.” The short people.#


Lee A. Matthias

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