Friday, January 7, 2011

Cleaning Up the Past

Stephen King's Langoliers
Common wisdom once advised that the only way to progress was to learn from history, thereby avoiding the mistakes of our predecessors by correcting our course accordingly.

A wise man once said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Truer words were never spoken. Human history is rife with injustice and cruelty unimaginable to modern civilized societies, mainly because we learned that such behavior was deplorable, and we changed it.

Women's Suffrage and the Civil Rights Act would most likely never have happened if our offspring were deprived of the knowledge of what was wrought before them. Without the social barometer of the past, behaviors would have remained the same. History is the closest thing to time travel that man is capable of, the ability to peer into what came before to see how and why we got where we are today.

One of the great themes of science fiction is the idea of actually travelling through time. A common theme in these stories is the danger of altering the present reality by tinkering with the events that led to it. In 1995, Stephen King laid those fictional fears to rest with The Langoliers. 

In King's story, a small group of airline passengers accidentally gets caught in a time warp, and are transported roughly fifteen minutes into the past. They soon discover a disturbing truth; there is no distant past to travel to because the Langoliers - a ruthless and voracious collection of horrifying creatures - eat the past, cleansing every trace of it like an unfortunate cow wading into a piranha-filled river.


Would Twain Recognize This Today?

My friend over at The Edisto Joe Outlook the other day pointed out the latest absurdity by the Left, in their attempts to edit Mark Twain. The purpose, it seems, is to eliminate the "offensive" terms in Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer that were common vernacular in Twain's era. In Wednesday's Mark Twain Revised And Politically Correct, Joe writes:
One of America's greatest authors, Samuel Clements, aka, Mark Twain, has now had two of his greatest works, "Huck Finn" and "Tom Sawyer" revised into a new combined edition, Mark Twain's The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer And Huckelberry Finn, courtesy of one Mr. Mark Gribben and New South Books of Alabama. The new version no longer will contain the dreaded N-word, nor will it contain the words "injun" or "half-breed." 

The piece goes on to explain that those terms have now been replaced with "slave", "Indian" and "half-blood", respectively. The reason? The author, Mr. Gribben, is the victim of the New World, a place where people suddenly seem to have a right not to be offended. So now, we will see a broadened effort to scrub the works of giants, to edit the work of better men because they were the product of their time.

It is a dangerous road to traverse. Once masterpieces are altered to suit the present, they will more resemble the product of modernity and alter our perception of the past. And what if some future revisionist finds the terms used by Gribben to be offensive? Eventually, Twain's works will be unrecognizable.

It is ludicrous for the Left to believe that because past events were deemed offensive by today's standards, they somehow have a right to deny or alter them. While it is comforting to know that we cannot physically travel back in time and alter the present, it is frightening to realize that there are still those who have found a way to get it done.

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Anonymous said...

This is all about limiting Free Speech. After all, censorship is everywhere. The gov’t (and their big business cronies) censor free speech, shut down dissent and ban the book “America Deceived II”. Free speech for all, especially Mark Twain.
Last link (before Google Books bans it also]:

Edisto Joe said...

Well said Woody; well said. "To edit the work of better men because they were a product of there time." I shall remember that phrase. Thank you for mentioning my post and the link.

I read in the Twain matter that the revisionist, Mr. Gribben is an expert on Twain and during his discussion groups about the books, he found people reluctant to join in because they found those particular words offensive and uncomfortable. That is so liberal leftish, unable to face reality and the facts about their own past. What kind of wishy-washy discussion group was he running?

Woody said...

EJ, this topic has one of my pals from a discussion group fuming. She is a retired history teacher, and she is wigging out over this.

I had heard about it and brushed it aside until I read your piece, and it reminded me just how important this subject really is, thank you for that.

Greg said...

This as free Americans we cannot allow, because once they are allowed to change writings of past authors then it isn't far off that what you and I write will be edited, or even worse censored.

This is essentially free speech, an effective way of removing our right of free speech is to make everything into some sort of offensive or racially motivated thought that somehow will ruin civilization.

Where on the contrary taking away our the right to speak or write freely, even if it is offensive at times fosters change and understanding.

Great post, love the way you think and write!

Clanque said...

Yikes! The reviser's name is ALAN Gribben, not Mark Gribben. I'm Mark Gribben (one of several). I am also an author who writes true crime articles and does not support historical revisionism.