Censoring Huck Finn

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Recently a new edition of Huckleberry Finn was published that omitted all uses of the “n word” and “injun.” The arguments in favor of censorship were that it would avoid offending many people and that the book itself would be allowed into the hands of more children. Although I suppose there could be a watered down “children’s edition” of Huck Finn placed on the market just as there are “Children’s Bibles,” for the original novel to be censored is a bad idea.

The n-word is offensive and should not be used by decent human beings. However, it was used routinely in the past by people in many parts of the country. Mark Twain‘s novel would not be reflecting the speech of the characters of his time period without using that word. It is silliness to impose today’s standards of morality on an older work of literature. Even the Bible has offensive stories–of Israelites slaughtering men, women, and children, including babies, in the name of God–should the Bible be censored because there are passages that offend today’s moral sensibilities? Should the last verse of Psalm 137, in which the writer desires to smash Babylonian babies against a rock, be censored? What about the works of Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner? Should the “n-word” be eliminated from their novels because they were writing about characters in the Old South who used that word? I pity the contemporary Southern novelist who is starting out–if he wishes to write a novel about the South of the 1950s, I wonder how many editors would eliminate his novel from consideration because some of his characters used the “n-word.” What if the writer is writing about openly racist characters? Perhaps politically correct editors and the radicalized “literary police” want to eliminate certain topics entirely from fiction. But in that case, fiction loses its power to tell us the truth about the human condition, both its good aspects and its bad aspects.

Political correctness is a continuation of the Puritan tradition in American life. Once religious Puritanism died, a secular Puritanism arose to “cleanse” language from all racist, sexist, and “homophobic” terms. Of course these Puritans allow the minority groups they claim to defend to continue to use insulting terminology such as the “n word.” In doing this, they insult the very minorities they claim to support, since they do not hold them to as high a standard of behavior as “European Americans.” When such Puritianism is extended to Huckleberry Finn, how much further will it go? Will there be any stopping the “purification” of all literature to fit the Purtians’ image? Will more publishers of Huckleberry Finn join in the censorship of offensive terms? If so, which books will be next? Which authors will be denied publication because of offending the thought police who infect the literary and academic worlds? When did authors have to write about perfect characters who never use offensive terms?

In the past the main danger of censorship has been from the right. Today the danger is from the radical left, the post-Marcusian Marxists who desire to change the culture by force of law if necessary. The problem is that by hiding the truth of the bad aspects of human nature, these censors may only allow these bad traits to smolder underneath the surface of society until they explode in unhealthy ways. This effort of censorship of Huck Finn should be nipped in the bud now before it spreads to other literature.

The Need for American Energy Independence

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Oil prices are on the rise again, with gasoline prices again predicted to reach $4.00 a gallon in the next few months. Although I hope such a prediction is wrong, it is likely that Americans will again experience the pinch at the pump, slowing any potential economic recovery and stranding those on fixed incomes whose communities lack good public transportation.

Although I disagreed with Jimmy Carter on many issues while he was president, he was right on the money regarding the need to find alternative sources of energy other than fossil fuel. If the United States had kept up the commitment Mr. Carter made, it is probable that the U. S. would not be in the state it is today, more dependent on oil imports than ever.

It is true that there have been many false starts. Solar power is limited in its practical applicability due to its inefficiency. Nuclear power plants are efficient, but they also create nuclear waste that must be stored deep in underground salt mines. There is also the risk of a meltdown. Perhaps they are a short-term partial solution to our energy needs, but they should not be a long-term solution.

Nuclear fusion continues to hold promise, yet it is difficult to get past the 50-50 split between energy used to create a fusion reaction and energy released from the reaction. More funding is justified for continued fusion research. Accessing energy from the zero-point field is possible in principle, although getting a useful yield of energy has thus far been more difficult than in fusion research. However, if the zero-point field could be made an effective energy source, it would be unlimited–research funds, even in this highly speculative area of research, are, in my judgment, warranted.

Reasonable efforts at conservation such as combining trips, carpooling, and increased use of public transportation would help lower demand for oil. I prefer voluntary rather than coercive measures; if gas prices get high enough and a company offers more efficient public transportation and does a good job of marketing, more people would likely take advantage of such transportation. It might be a good thing for people to actually see other people from day to day rather than images on a computer screen.

Solving American’s energy problems must involve a combination of reasonable conservation and finding new and better sources of energy as alternatives to fossil fuels. If the United States could halt its dependence on OPEC, that would be a tremendous boost to solve the world’s energy problems, obtaining more independence in foreign policy, and affirming U. S. national sovereignty and pride.