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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Kit Barry <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 7 Jan 2011 03:02:34 -0800
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Yes, there is a bigger issue. This is the purpose of writing, of art. If the art is real, if it has substance, if art addresses 
Life beyond entertainment, then it transcends to a bigger issue than the art piece itself.

Of all the places there should be honesty, it is in the classroom. If any place has the responsibility of offering the truth, 
it is in the classroom. If a class is not ready to deal with certain issues of life, then it should wait. But the courageous
teacher will lead, prepare, nurture where needed to do what can be done to bring students to a point of being
able to face the issues and questions of Life. Sometimes, in some places, in some situations, this is just not 
going to happen. So accept that reality and wait for a better day. But to lower the level of the art to make it
palatable, to redefine the art to make it more convenient ................... this is not honest.

This is not about Twain himself. He merely provided the questions, the issues - brilliantly - for us to work through. We
are still trying to work through the contradictions, the inequities, the frailties of being human of which Twain was well
aware. He did not have the final answers. He knew this. Why else did he continue to put the issues in front of us. 
He knew it would take time. And so here we are now, still trying to think it through.

But to consider Twain would tolerate having his work edited after he was done - God, I hope not. But that is not the 
issue. Even if Twain could stomach having his art altered after he had completed it, it would not be his call. It is no 
one's call. Art has to be left alone as it was created. There it is, for whatever it is, the product of a person's brain 
and being. If it has value, a message, then good. But it should not be altered for convenience, for Political 
Correctness, for fashion, for changing times. For no reason do others have the right to re-do someone's art. 

If people can not read or look at a piece of art for the discomfort of it, then look away. Hopefully they will think about it. 
Hopefully they will self-reflect on the reasons for their discomfort. Perhaps  they will learn something of their inward 
self. Then maybe they will take second look at the art. 

Many will never get to a point of reading Huck Finn. This is an issue of the person. It is between the person and
the book. But it is the person who needs to change, not the book. If the person can not change, then so be it. 
Change is not for everyone. Change happens to varying degrees in each of us. But the art, if it is true, if it is 
honest, the art will stay constant. Substantive art is the vehicle for eternal verities. People need to live up to 
eternal verities, not bring the eternal verities down to human level. How else are we going to evolve to a 
kinder way.

So long as we try to find ways to make things more pleasant, easier, more palatable, we will continue to live
with the very hurts of Life that the artist is trying to help us think about. The purpose for us to think about the
unkindnesses we do is to help us find less hurtful ways to behave. If we keep ourselves in denial through
euphemisms, nothing will change. We have a long way to go to understand who we are. We have a long
way to go to look down and see on whose shoulders we stand, and to understand what it means that we
are only here now because of those people before us. So long as we do not understand the value of 
words in their context, so long as we respond in fear of words, I wonder how we will ever evolve to a 
better place of people with people. 

Slave, Black, Honkey, Nigger, Whitey, Indian, Cracker, Injun, and a thousand other words that are 
confusing and hurtful in some moments, and then mean something entirely different in other 
moments - they all have value not for the words themselves, but for the fact they are mirrors of 
what we are thinking, and how we are evolving. Mess with the words, sugar-coat them, and 
we do the same to our thinking and understanding of our past and how we live with it now.
Denial or honesty. So far we have had a pretty long run with something other than honesty.

Kit Barry

The Ephemera Archive for American Studies