It is amazing to which lengths the American establishment goes to white-wash its history, not even stopping at the doors of literature. Literature, for those who never cared, is always a reflection of its time and socio-economic frameworks and thus must always be read in that context, describing both the author's station at his or her travel through life as well as a description of the times during which the book was written.
And said work was written at a time when the word "nigger" (no, I am not going to have my balls shrink at the fear of possibly having offended a black person, and no, I am not going to call them African Americans, either, because... hey, have you noticed? There are black people in France. And in England. And in Germany, too, now!).
In my lifetime alone I have had to keep up with the political phrasing becoming more and more "inoffensive" and by that I mean that white people, especially white Americans would like to hide their prejudice and racism behind words that at their surface seem to be neutral. Words matter, yes, but not nearly as much as the thoughts behind them. Take that away, and you are left with meaningless shells. Nigger turned to Negro turned to Black turned to Coloured turned to African American.
You may think that to be progress, but it isn't, not really. They are still niggers in the minds and hearts of a rather large proportion of white Americans, and if you don't believe that, start looking for the black people at any given Tea Party rally. Or start looking for the Latinos, who are not a race, by the way. Not genetically speaking. Neither are the Jews. Nor the Muslims, both of the latter denoting by and large a cultural and religious community. Why? Because anybody can join (once they follow the rules).
You cannot choose to be black.
You cannot choose to be gay, either, but that is a topic for another discussion.
Completely side-stepping the topic of "how the hell did America look like in the late 19th century", it is now the norm to be inoffensive, unless of course you don't count the fact that "nigger" has been replaced with superficially inoffensive words like "urban". So, whenever you hear that phrase, you know that it actually means "nigger", but hey, who can be angry at "urban", for it only means that you be living in dem big city blocks, right?
Yeah, right. Only that has become a synonym for black people ever since them white folks decided to pack up and leave for the Spielbergian suburbia (in which there is never a black person to be seen, ever, and if you were to substitute E.T. in his movie with a black person, you'd have the quintessential "Magic Negro" story, which have entertained a great many generations of white folks. Watch the movie again. Close your eyes. Imagine E.T. being a black man. You'll find that once you open your eyes again, things in the world will look quite differently).
But we cannot allow ourselves to think about these things, because they tear down the veneer of acceptance, the lie of tolerance that is needed to work in today's doublespeak world, in which meanings are always inferred, never stated, in which prejudice is hidden in empty words, but never spoken.
And since Black Barry has been in the White House, underneath that apparent "victory", these things have become buried, not to be talked about, other than in "birther" theories, and I have talked about it before on this blog, and who has read here repeatedly knows that I am not a racist myself.
Neither do I believe that blacks are by their history and nature magical, better, improved or more enlightened, which is merely the liberal version of racism, descending from Kipling's "White Man's Burden" and twisted around, in a semi-worship for those who have never been in power, thus they need to be that somewhat rarest of species (again, this doesn't merely pertain to black people. Jewish people still delude themselves to be better, chosen, and what have you, based on those centruies of persecution).
But let us come back to literature. Literature, as Doctor Who would tell you, are fixed points in time and space. They cannot be altered, must not be altered, for with such change they would lose the meaning. And let us not even get into the fact that nobody should ever have the right to alter an author's work, for whatever reason, good or bad, merely because it no longer syncs up with the current(s) of time.
But that is what is happening right now. Where? Oh, kids, only in America, where "Twain scholar" Allan Gribben has unilaterally decided to take out all references to "niggers" and "Injuns" and various other things that might be considered offensive by "today's readers"
Did I tell you that said scholar is sitting right in the middle of Alabama? Yes, that's right. Alabama has taken the lead in protecting niggers from white people! Like a lot of Southern states are so eager to rewrite their history of the 19th century to make it look like niggers, uh, negroes, uh, African Americans were actually quite happy with slavery and fought in overwhelming numbers for the South during the Civil War! Don't believe me? Start googling for Virgina textbooks. Start looking at how many of recent "parades" and "celebrations" are purposefully leaving out that little fact that the South was a really fucking racist part of America.
So was the North, by the way, and Lincoln's role in all of it is somewhat murky, too (I know! Shocker, right?). And Mark Twain wrote about those times, in his worldwide classics Tom Sawyer and especially in Huckleberry Finn, which brings together and deconstructs both the myths of niggers and rednecks, because when you think about it, Huckleberry Finn is the most redneck, lower class white kid you will find in modern literature, and both he and Jim have done more for humanising and stripping away prejudices than almost all political speeches up to Martin Luther King's "I had a dream" moment.
By taking these words out, certain parts of America will in another generation or so go, "what? We never called them niggers. Or niggas. Look at Mark Twain! He never wrote that shit, and he was living at that time!"
Can't you see it? Bristol Palin in 20 years time, in her anchor position at Fox News, getting all huffy and puffy about it? Trust me, kids, that is exactly what is going to happen. It is part of a process that has been going on for a long time now, giving new meaning to words and erasing the old meanings, then looking back at a time that never was but at a time that they then see as the actual history.
Doublespeak. Newspeak. Orwellian. Old George was one of the people who could see the future by seeing through his present. And so was Mark Twain.
And this is not merely a change for "political correctness".
This is rewriting history.
Word by Word.
Idea by Idea.
Until everything is now. No past. No future.
And Fox News will tell you what the present is.
And so I say it, that word, that horrible word, so that we won't forget it. So that we will never forget it and the times it stood for, those times when it was okay to see somebody as inferior, as little more than a beast (with an entirely big cock, watch out, ladies), run only by instinct and in need of guidance by "englightened Christian Whites".
Say it with me, and remember.
[UPDATE] Well, Keith Olberman did talk about it last night on his show, but even there, he and everybody else, really is skirting around that word, as if you spontaneously combust if speaking it out loud, even in the context of a scholarly or political debate.