13 May 2011

Facepalm of the Month: "To Kill A Mockingbird" Censored

2011 has been an interesting year for cases of idiotic censorship.

In a classic episode of missing the point, a school superintendent in our great state has banned a stage production of To Kill A Mockingbird, adapted from Harper Lee's famous novel.  The reason?  It's not because of the violence or the fact that the crux of the plot is a rape trial.  No, the play was cancelled because, true to its profound indictment of the irrationality of racism, it features characters who utter racial slurs, and that's not school appropriate.

Seriously.  We might as well ban George Orwell's 1984 because Ingsoc's propaganda could be seen as pro-Communist.  Oh, wait, that's been done.

I suppose this is to be expected in an age when a prominent scholar censors the same slur out of the dialogue of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (The late Mr. Clemens would be bashing his head on his keyboard in Hell right now if there were an afterlife).  Apparently we can depict black slaves being savagely beaten, treated like subhuman beasts, and deprived of every opportunity in life, and that's perfectly fine - but if we candidly depict their tormentors calling them "niggers" it makes too many people uncomfortable.

Censoring the ugliness of our past hinders future generations from learning from their ancestors' stupidity and from preventing history from repeating itself.  When we take the sting out of human cruelty by censoring the nasty words, we're left with only statistics about death and disenfranchisement.  We're left without a moral lesson to derive from the way humans have used language to dehumanize one another, and without such poignant depictions in literature, we're left without a way to empathize with the victims of injustice.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License