Thursday, January 6, 2011

Slavery? What slavery?

So Republicans are reading the U.S. Constitution today on the floor of the House of Representatives, but they're leaving out the awkward parts, like counting black slaves as three-fifths of a person.

I don't know. It just reminds me of Southern Republicans celebrating secession and the Confederacy without mentioning slavery at all (or simply insisting - despite abundant historical evidence otherwise - that slavery had little to do with it).

Of course, this is just political theater, nothing more. And I have to say it's also funny that a lunatic "birther" interrupted them, yelling out "except Obama, except Obama, help us Jesus!" when they got to the part about requiring the President to be a natural born citizen. Heh, heh. And that's one of their supporters!

Well, when you try to use lunatics for political advantage, you've got a tiger by its tail. John McCain has learned that the past two years, and so have plenty of other Republicans, desperately trying to placate the far-right fanatics who've become the GOP base.

But I don't feel sorry for them, not at all. I feel a lot sorrier for our country!

PS. I must admit that I like Rep. Jerrold Nadler's take on this:
"They are reading it like a sacred text," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the outgoing chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties, who has studied and memorized the Constitution with talmudic intensity.

Nadler called the "ritualistic reading" on the floor "total nonsense" and "propaganda" intended to claim the document for Republicans. "You read the Torah, you read the Bible, you build a worship service around it," said Nadler, who argued that the Founders were not "demigods" and that the document's need for amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed it was "highly imperfect."

"You are not supposed to worship your constitution. You are supposed to govern your government by it," he said.


Chimeradave said...

It is eerie isn't it? I just recently posted a blog entry about "Fahrenheit 451" and Bradbury's warning in its Coda that there is "more than one way to burn a book."

And now I'm seeing how much that is true. Did you hear all about how a company released a version of Huck Finn and edited what they considered dated words?

Somewhere else in the "Coda" Bradbury says something about "lock the the doors and bolt the windows; they are coming." Hopefully there are enough intelligent people like us out there, but sometimes it doesn't seem like it.

Here's my blog's link just in case anyone here is interested.

Chimeradave said...

Even my wonderful and intelligent wife says she'd rather read a version of Huck Finn that didn't feature language that would make her cringe. I feel like it's a slippery slope if we allow history that makes us uncomfortable to be erased. Especially since it's the uncomfortable stuff that future generation might actually learn something from.

WCG said...

I considered writing a blog post about this, John, but I'm not getting it done. So for now at least, here's my opinion:

I understand the objection about reading Huckleberry Finn in high schools. A century and a half after the Civil War, racism is still a problem in America. And "nigger" is an extremely toxic word.

The black-white gap in education only makes it worse. All too many black children struggle with terrible schools and the widespread belief - among themselves - that they can't compete.

Why do you think they say that studying and getting good grades is "acting white"? It's because too many black students don't have faith in themselves, let alone what their peers, their teachers, or their school boards might think. They don't even want to try, because they think they'll fail.

In this environment, teaching a book where "nigger" is a common word (even though Mark Twain's message is clearly worthwhile), might add insult to injury, especially if students still take turns reading out loud. (God, I hope not! How boring is that!?) At the very least, it would be a distraction that high school students really don't need.

Given all this, I still can't support censoring books. OK, so a school may not want to read Huckleberry Finn in high school. So what? There are far more books - good books, even great books - to read than the time available. Read it in college, then. It won't be forgotten, not unless it's bastardized into mediocrity.

There's no particular reason why Huckleberry Finn must be read in high school. In fact, maybe it shouldn't be. I remember my high school English teachers ruining Charles Dickens for me. I used to read his novels - unabridged - for entertainment, when I was only 12 or so. But not after we plodded through them in high school. That miserable experience cured me!

After that, I was always happy my school didn't teach sex education. :)

Jim Harris said...

Good point, school kids don't have to read Huckleberry Finn.

I have a problem with the n-word. I don't want to see or hear it anywhere, but on the other hand I don't want to censor people either.

The trouble is I've been getting into some hip-hop music like Nicki Minaj or Kanye West and they frequently use the n-word. If we're going to censor the word should it be censored everywhere?