On airplanes, passengers caught tampering with the lavatory smoke detector can be fined up to $2000. Why? Well, it's illegal for one, but it is also a safety hazard that could potentially jeopardize the well-being of everyone else on board.
So, my question is, how much should Mr. Alan be fined for tampering with what is considered one of American literature's greatest novels? Because altering this text is a "perspective hazard" that could potentially jeopardize the knowledge and education of future generations.
Literature is an artifact, and artifacts, are elements of culture. They are objects created by humans to depict social norms accepted by a society. When referring to artifacts such as Huck Finn - artifacts that have become a legacy; artifacts that educate generations about a time long before their existence; artifacts that will deliver a message long after we are no longer - it is vital to preserve these objects in their original form. The way intended by their inventor; the way that captures the truth.
History is ugly. Our world has been no stranger to segregation, discrimination, and injustice. We've hung those suspected of witchcraft, gassed those who attend Temple, and "hunted" for Communists. And in 2011, the road to equality continues.
If we do not report these trends correctly, how is the future to know any different?
Mark Twain's novel depicts an era where people were misguided. They believed skin color provided a plethora of knowledge, when in fact, it shared nothing about talent or character. And during that time, groups of people were referred to by certain words. Derogatory words, yes, but they were the words used nevertheless.
The article I've linked states the new version of this novel replaces the n word with "slave."
According to dictionary.com, the first word is defined as an extremely disparaging and offensive term (slang) to identify a person considered to be contemptible, ignorant, and inferior. Contrarily, a slave is a person who is viewed as being the property of another; someone who has been captured against their will and placed under the domination of another party.
It's hardly the same thing.
In my opinion as an educator, a writer, and a human, this entire debacle is an attempt to rewrite history. We can not and should not sugarcoat the ugliness that preceded us. It is an insult to those who suffered.
What we can do is learn. Every crappy situation conceals a lesson to be uncovered. And that is exactly why Huck Finn should remain in its original, appropriate, and historically accurate form.
If someone is offended by the dialogue Mark Twain used, I say GOOD!!!! Be offended. Be very offended. It's an offensive term. Think. Empathize. React. Make a conscious decision to end the hate. Learn from the past; refuse to allow history to repeat itself. Isn't learning one of the best tools for progress?
Any thoughts on this? Am I missing something? Where do we draw the lines of censorship? Is this simply a stepping stone to an even larger problem? Chime in; I love discussion.
Wishing you all a weekend blessed with inspiration and productivity.
Oh, and just a little FYI: As a reader, I'm not exactly a Huck Finn kind of guy. Take that for what it's worth...