Saturday, January 8, 2011
January 7, 2011
A column today about the wisdom of leaving things alone.
First, the U.S. House of Representatives, in its opening session, read the Constitution aloud. But they didn't read the whole thing; they left out those parts that have been amended, that might seem offensive nowadays. Left out the part where slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a person, for instance, or where they could gain freedom by escaping to a free state. The effect was to suggest that the Constitution was created perfect when, in fact, like the country it governs, it changed and improved over time.
Then there is Huckleberry Finn. The New York Times reports that Alan Gribben, who teaches English at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, has produced a new edition of the book which replaces the word "nigger" with "slave".and the word "Injun" with "Indian." Why on earth?
It's probably ten years since I last read the book, but I remember that Twain worked very hard to get the regional accents and slang he used right--the way the people in fact spoke back then. Nigger Jim, as best I remember, is one of the principal characters in the book, a strong, principled man who teaches Huck what it really means to be a man, a lesson Huck's own drifter of a father can't teach his son. You finish the book liking and respecting Jim and that was a valuable lesson for Huck to learn in that time and place.
Come on guys. Leave well enough alone, please.