Sunday, December 21, 2008

Don't Burn Down the Little House

Recently someone in my book group expressed a strong opinion that the Little House on the Prairie Books were pretty much useless in terms of literary significance because of Ma's racist references to the Native Americans. She felt these references impugned the value of the entire book. It was an interesting idea to consider, because of course no one would be supportive of anything that even suggests racism. But somehow, her stance felt wrong to me and I had to let it sit for a while to consider it, and eventually (as always) my thoughts settled and I understood how I felt.

There are many books with racist overtones that are highly valued in literature because they present the complete picture of life at a particular point in time. We don't stop reading them because of a racist remark. If we did, we would lose some of our greatest literary treasures. Would we change Gone With the Wind, for example?    That's tantamount to censorship and really, what is the next step? Shall we start book burning? Or maybe just red-lining the parts that offend us?

I think this woman is assuming that one would read Little House and think it is somehow correct to make these racist references. But for heaven's sake -- this was written hundreds of years ago. No intelligent person would make that leap today and, in fact, it makes perfect fodder for thinking about how much life has changed. (Along with thinking about how we no longer blow up pig bladders to toss around as balloons.)

Please God, let us never in our world start to edit our book choices based on some individual's decision about what they decide seems inappropriate to them. It has happened too many times in history and is happening right now in this world. If anything, as readers we should fight against this kind of controlling behavior because what are we as a society if we are not, at the very bottom of it, able to be free thinkers? While often well intentioned, it never, ever ends well.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


"A Santa hat is not enough. Get a Santa suit. Buy a Santa suit. Make a Santa suit. Steal a Santa suit. Get creative: be a Secret Santa, a Santasaurus, Candy-cane, a Reindeer, a Chanukah Chicken, a GD latke, Stewardess Santa, Knight Rider Santa, Crusty Peace Punk Santa, the occasional Legless Reindeer, Chanukah Squirrel, Emo-Elf, or the Santichrist.
Just don't wear your++++ing jeans."

These are some of the Santa Rules that are part of the instructions on the SantaCon NYC website, part of the larger site.  If you haven't been to it ---------well folks, you are missing out on quite a site.  And hey, there are many places around the U.S. where it is not too late for you, too, to take part in this annual debacle of debatable debauchery. Personally I grimace when I see them coming, but I'm a fairly good sport and they do have rules (expletives deleted as there are some minors who read my blog):  

"Santa acts like Santa. Be jolly. Belly-laugh. Let people sit on your lap. Give out gifts.
Santa doesn't seek media attention. "Ho-ho-ho" is good. "Publicity ho" is lame.
Santa doesn't get arrested. Please remember the FOUR F's:
Don't fool with kids.
Don't fool with cops.
Don't fool with security.
Don't fool with Santa."

(Note that nowhere in the original four F's did the word "fool" actually appear.)

Basically you can think of the SantaCons as a swarthy group of pirates, mostly male but some female, dressed as jolly old St. Nicholas, who roam the streets of specific cities together on designated days in search of buried treasure and other booty, all in the interest of holly jolly fun.  I think that's pretty accurate.  They're interesting to watch, sort of in the way you watch, say, a really bad singer completely botch the National Anthem -- covering your ears but somehow not quite running away in horror.

This last line from the SantaCon site may sum up exactly what they are all about perfectly: 
"Santa does not make children cry (unless they whine, snivel, or otherwise deserve it).
Really - If you see kids, give them nice toys, candy, or something pleasant. Feel free to urinate on the parents. Tourists fall somewhere in between the two -- adjust depending on their attitude."