Friday, June 24, 2011

Huckleberry Finn, [redacted] Jim, and Making Sense

I think slavery is a bad idea. I've posted about this before. (June 5, 2011, June 30, 2010, June 25, 2010, February 2, 2009)

Slavery isn't a bad idea because I say so, though. I've got the authority of "some guy with a blog:" which isn't all that much. What matters is that the Catholic Church says slavery is a wrong.1

Shocking Best-Seller Banned

Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" was uncensored when I was in high school. I'd read it - and was quite impressed.

Not that it was a 'nice' story.

"Huckleberry Finn" is, after all, an account of a teenage boy who, despite the best efforts of his guardians, runs away from a good home. He then commits a series of crimes including theft, aiding a fugitive, fraud, and more theft.

And decides that he'd rather go to Hell than give up this life of crime.

And the language! Shocking!

No wonder the book was banned.

Here's a sample from Twain's scandalous best-seller:
"...'...We blowed out a cylinder-head.'

" 'Good gracious! anybody hurt?''

"No'm. Killed a [redacted].'

"' Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt....'..."
(Mark Twain, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" Part 2 (1885), Chapter XXXII., via Project Gutenberg)

Sense and Sensibilities - American Style

Maybe school libraries are allowed to keep this appalling example of foul language on the shelves again. Even though it is "racist." As nearly as I could tell, any book containing the word [redacted] was "racist."

I can sort of understand that. We're not supposed to use words like [redacted].


And so, this massive, eloquent - in my opinion - account of ludicrously inhumane attitudes about slaves in America was removed from shelves. Because the author used the word [redacted].

Down With Their Establishment!

Banning "Huckleberry Finn" because of naughty language was silly.

For one thing, recoiling in shock and horror - or maybe it's horror and shock - from indelicate language was what 'the establishment' did, back in the '60s.

In my teens, those not satisfied with the status quo used establishment efforts to keep certain words off television, and particular books out of schools, as an example of how out-of-touch conservatives were.

I thought there was something odd about supporting "free speech," and wanting to control what people said.2

I was one of 'those crazy kids' then. I was more into pocket protectors, than jeans and long hair: but I was as certain as any hair-over-the-eyes conventional non-conformist that society wasn't as good as it could be. I still think so.

Time passed. I got jobs as a sales clerk, beet chopper, delivery guy, radio disk jockey, and computer operator. Not all at the same time, of course.

Meanwhile, some of the folks who had gone ballistic over the dying gasps of McCarthyism pursued serious careers. Some of them became successful professionals in various communications media. Some earned tenure in the establishment. Academic establishment, that is.

It's Different, When You're in Charge

I remember the trailing edge of McCarthyism, and the days when Political Correctness was in flower.

Apart from some of the demographics of the censors, and details in what was getting blacklisted, I didn't see much difference. And still don't.

Particularly since folks seem inclined to get a little crazy when information gatekeepers share ideals and goals. Nothing wrong with having ideals and goals.

It's when folks won't let anybody who doesn't agree with them - in the 'right' way - be heard.

Or, in the case of "Huckleberry Finn," read.

Religious Freedom - for Everybody

I have to believe that religious freedom matters. Not just freedom for folks who agree with me: for everybody.

I'm not that thrilled that I'm helping pay the salary of a professor who trashed a consecrated Host. (August 3, 2009)

But I'm a practicing Catholic: there are certain things I must believe because it's what the Church teaches.3

Including this:
" 'All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.'26 This duty derives from 'the very dignity of the human person.'27 It does not contradict a 'sincere respect' for different religions which frequently 'reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men,'28 nor the requirement of charity, which urges Christians 'to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith.'29"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104)
As I've said before, you don't have to believe this. I certainly can't 'make' you - and, since I'm a practicing Catholic: I wouldn't try, if I could. But I do suggest that you at least think about what the successors of Peter have been saying.

Slightly-related posts:

1 This isn't all the Church has to say about slavery, but it's a place to start:
"The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason—selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian—lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave 'no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord.'194"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2414)
Liberation theology is a bad idea, too.

So the Pope says nobody's ever supposed to do anything about bad people? It's not that simple. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2243)

But if the Catholic Church is against slavery, why isn't the Pope telling Catholics to break their chains, take arms against enemies of the people, let the streets flow with the blood of oppressor classes? Maybe you've read about - or met - a priest who thought it was okay to kill whoever owns the factory you work in, as long as you steal his money and share it with your friends.

Attractive as that idea may be, though: it's still on the no-no list. Sometimes it must seem like the Church doesn't want folks to have any fun at all.
2 Not that I thought throwing verbal doo-doo on the walls was an optimal communications strategy.

3Here's a start on what the Cathechism of the Catholic Church has to say about freedom:I do not like the foul, coarse - and largely unimaginative - vulgarities which seem required in many entertainment media.

On the other hand, I've seen what happened when two different sets of do-gooders decided that they were better than the rabble - and needed to control what 'the great American public' or 'the Masses' saw, heard, and read.

I didn't think much of the results, either time. I've posted about this sort of thing before.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.