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David H Fears <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 22 Oct 2007 17:17:07 -0400
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Dear Group,

Interesting, this "discussion" on language. Mr. Fitz Smythe says he "can't
abide white supremacists" and calls the phrase I used (white enough) "their
language." The junior partner in?Dewey Cheatem and Howe chimes in that the
phrase is "offensive," and calls its use "an offense" and my follow up "an
attempt to hide behind a Twain quote." This is a first for me, hiding behind
a Twain quote. It's quite a comfortable hideout.? Usually I show how empty
my head is by putting my own quotes out there naked and afraid... These
gentlemen evidently do not buy the long-standing American value of allowing
disagreeable types to "stand as a monument to their own folly." And I
smell?a lot of folly here and there, not the least of which is pressure to
conform to the Fitz-Howe school of what is offensive, available in
ever-expanding volumes of dung-colored tomes.

A bright spot--along comes Mark Coburn (using what feels to me like the old
actor Charles Coburn's certitude and wisdom, with his monocle, and a Fred
Thompson like armchair manner) delivering a nice talk on meta-reality (is my
talking about it here to be called meta-meta-reality?) Certainly his post
was the best read so far, maybe for the reason I like blonde jokes and also
hear so few Alzheimer jokes.

Tracy Wuster associated me with the late Walter Frear (MT and Hawaii,
1947)?when she wrote, "Not knowing David Frears...." (Of course Tracy is in
Texas, where some spell the way they pronounce--can you say "nuclear"?--so I
cannot feel as honored as if she were in Hartford, for example, and called a
Fears a Frear.) I also got a private email from a lady who said she felt
like she?knows me (other preface that they don't know me; don't know if I'm
a racist--either you folks do or do not know me--stop hiding behind a Twain
list), but as far as I can attest, this does not mean the fair lady knows me
in a biblical sense. Pity. I asked her, since she knows me, what was I
thinking right at that moment? She got it pretty close, which is scary?(I
thought my MT quote made it clear enough that I'm convinced this is a rat
race we're in, and it matters little what colors the rats are.)

Mr. Fitz Smythe stuck his nose a bit higher and told Mr. Coburn that he
didn't "really need lectures on humor." That's the trouble with humor--when
you lecture on it, it loses all its elusive charm. When you unfocus on it,
why, there it is! Since Fitz has suffered a "million stupid jokes" (probably
one less than his mother suffered)?I shall try not to add that straw that
breaks. The third partner in?Dewey Cheatem & Howe then replied that one
man's meta is another man's rancid meat. Such makes a meta-horse race. Such
makes meta-vegetarians out of meta-red-blooded men. (One should keep in mind
that the blood of all men is red, regardless if they're "white enough."?I'm
not going to make any comment on all women. I never claimed to be reckless.)

Here I would ask one question: What would Sam say to such criticism of my
phrase? White enough?

Not to WHITEwash things, or deny that some?WHITE supremacists may have
stolen this phrase (did I steal it back from them? read it somewhere in the
hundreds of hours going through MT trivia? There's no deed anywhere filed
for this phrase), and realizing ours is not a WHITE-tie affair, I plead for
professed, ancient humorists to lighten up, for those taking a meta-view to
"simplify, simplify, simplify!" I do not wear a white hat or a black hat. In
fact, a true Oregonian wears no hat and owns no umbrella. But I admit to
being shameless at times to doff a Cubs hat. I fear I lack being "Cubs
enough," if the last few decades of discontent are any indication.?

This language thing is no black art. Yes, Sam was a master, as
someone?posted here.?True also, he was complex in many ways, not the least
of which was his many stances and pronouncements on race from Poughkeepsie
to Vienna. Like Jefferson, he is one of those figures in history who often
contradicted himself as he evolved. But let's not give Sam the exclusive
right to be complex. I too am complex, even when trying to make a simple
post. I'm sure even a chuckleheaded oyster-brained postal clerk can see

Just as there are many definitions for black besides those who claim
ethnicity from Africa, there are many meanings of white besides those who
claim to be supreme. Some white folk are supreme, in my estimation, as are
some black...but this is not to the point. The point is, my language is my
own. Whether sloppy or exact, verbose or reticent, it's my own. No one may
choose it for me and to date no one has dissuaded me from choosing my
meanings with reference to any particular group. For, regardless of how we
might describe and group folks each of us is an individual making our own
choices. I may at times have been a blackguard, had black thoughts, been the
black sheep in my family--and now I may be "black enough" to add another
post to this discussion. Do you see? Well, I hope so. The day I allow Fitz
Smythe or the Unreliable to choose and parse my language is the day I check
out. Bark away, oh Fitz, for I fear that your right of disapproval is equal
to my right to use such e!
 uphemisms. If it's an offense, let it be on my head. Let it wash off in a
good Oregon shower.

I have the right to choose my language (it was first on the list of
amendments, you know) within the sacred bounds of the moderator on this
group. I may not holler "White fire!" in a crowded theater, nor call?Fitz
Smythe?dirty names here. He needs little help. I understand that. So those
who would control our language would make the first last, and the last
first. They would take the First Amendment and make it 6 pt. Garamond on the
back side of the document; not by preventing outright, but by insidious
groupthink. ?

Groupthink is a terrible erosion of our language. More than this, and under
any name it is corrosive to creativity and a blackguard to individual
freedoms (notice I did not say whiteguard), whether it is trumpeted in the
name of "diversity" or "political correctness" or "pabluum for the masses."
We must resist with all of our quilled might the curb on salty language. Sam
was often called "coarse" -- he was often criticized for his language, but
he chose it and we all benefit from his freedom to do so. And, while it's
true that dear Livy and Howells did some light sanding at the corners of
some proofs, this was only as Sam allowed and only his right to allow it.? I
think Sam would remind us that "we are all at least 50th cousins," and that
this modern obsession with race should never deter us from freedom of
thought or expression. The great bugaboo of our age is "racism" and
calling?"racist" at the use of such euphemisms,?tittles and jots.?Most
often, when that is hurled, all!
  sensible discussion is lost. Will it be lost here? When will it even

I don't mind, however, being called "supreme," when I earn it, of course. We
hear of the black vote, the Hispanic vote, the woman vote, but when do we
ever hear of the one-legged dwarf lesbian vote? I call for the subdivision
of these larger amorphous groups into ever-smaller slices, until we
recognize that being defined as an individual is far more blessed than to be
lumped in with 46% of idiots and fools. Andy Jackson, who had his own
troubles with injuns, said, "One man with courage makes a majority." Men
with courage don't hunt ways to avoide offense to that one-legged dwarf,
they try to make their meaning clear, they simply say it out. ?I hope I've
done that.

It was Sam who often enjoyed and created black humor (and no, I don't mean
racial humor.) The only thing he ever whitewashed was that famous fence, and
it was fun, too.

Now, it's back to the grind of reading proofs. Thanks for the break.

David H Fears
(No relation to Walter Frear)