Category Archives: Freedom of Speech
Please enjoy this guest post by Edward Johnson
Edward Johnson is a guest writer for Radiology Technician on the subject of earning bachelors programs in radiology .
Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is widely considered by scholars to be the great American novel. Centred around the story of the mischievous boy of the title, Huck Finn follows its protagonist and his unlikely partner, a runaway slave named Jim, through the American south before the Civil War. The book is lauded for its unflinching and often scathing depictions of a young country at an explosive time. It shows the United States’ rural region with equal parts beauty and ugliness.
This ugliness manifests itself in racism, which includes frequent use of the N-word. The prolific appearance of the word has led many to misguidedly label the book racist itself, furthering stereotypes and promoting prejudiced attitudes. Such a sentiment is completely wrong, but has led many a school to ban the book, depriving young readers of a true American classic that lambasts the attitudes detractors purport it to have.
In a move to combat these misconceptions, NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Twain’s masterpiece will not feature the N-word at all. Instead, it will be replaced in all instances by the word “slave”. Injun will also be excluded as well. The effort is helmed by Twain expert Alan Gribben, who thinks his version is an attempt to update the classic and expose it to wider audiences who would otherwise be turned off by its repeated use of the hurtful word.
The move has sparked immense controversy, with many people crying “censorship!” and others claiming that it is taming, even emasculating and desecrating a classic, untouchable text. But is the replacement of the N-word censorship, is it a needed update, or does it lie somewhere else entirely?
I’m inclined to believe that while the new edition has its heart in the right place, and so is not censorship, it is misguided. The N-word is an ugly and awful word that represents the worst of our nation’s history. I understand Gribben and company’s idea that removing the word will allow readers to see what the book is truly saying without being blinded by such an accosting label, and will help get the book back in schools and other institutions where it rightfully belongs.
But to remove the word entirely is to gloss over a sordid part of our nation’s history and attitudes toward race and class. The word was a sign of the times, one that unfortunately still perseveres to this day. Including the word keeps its impact, both historical and social.
Some have argued that removing the word is akin to “bleeping out” curse words from movies broadcast on television or explicit songs played on the radio. Huck Finn is literature, and in literature there is no place for dancing around the facts or dulling the brute force of uncomfortable truths.
I hope you enjoyed this guest post by Edward Johnson and see the importance of maintaining the literary vision and message of classic authors. For more information on this new edition of the classic Huckleberry Finn please visit NewSouth.
Maybe I’m naive but when I got up this morning I was greeted by a story that left me wondering what kind of world we are living in when a man cannot express himself through his prose without fear of imprisonment or worse still, execution in the 21st century. Seriously, why is it after such a long time of fighting both peacefully and violently for freedom of speech that we still have to hear about governments openly prosecuting and torturing civilians for expressing what they believe.
This is the case of Mr. Tragyal of Tibet who writes under the pseudonym Shogdung. Mr. Tragyal wrote a collection of essays entitled The Line Between Sky and Earth which since March 2008 has become highly sought after throughout the Tibetan-language community. The book is a best-selling work of non-fiction which “exhorts Tibetan intellectuals and civil servants to wage a "peaceful revolution" and a campaign of "civil disobedience" against Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in the disputed region”. (Closed books in China by Sreeram Chaulia) Tragyal was met by the Chinese police on 23 April 2010 at his office where they searched and confiscated both computers and notes and since then the author has been detained.
Passages in the illegally published book, The Line Between Sky and Earth, which speak of "my hair standing on end" due to "the methods of torture used by the dictators", are proverbial red rags to the CCP bull and invited instant detention for Tragyal last year. Now that a lengthy dossier of crimes has been collected, he is expected to be handed a punitive sentence by a court in Xining, the capital of Qinghai.
Tragyal faces charges of "splittism" or separatism in the western province of Qinghai, China for the publication of his book. Apparently, Tragyal is seen by the Chinese government as being particularly troublesome because he used to be a loyal editor of a state-run tibetan language publishing house, Qinghai Nationalities Publishing House in Xining, which regularly spewed propaganda on Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Tragyal’s daughter, Yeshi Tsomo, an editor at a state-owned Tibetan-language publisher is quoted by NY Times as saying; “I’ve read the book again and again, but I don’t see anything that breaks the law…I fear the government won’t care because they probably don’t like the idea behind the book.”
Tragyal is but one writer/blogger/artist out of 31 to have been detained by the Chinese government since March 2008 although he is described as being the most high-profile writer of the detainees. At this time the whereabouts and welfare of Mr. Tragyal remain unknown.
In China, as one writer observed, there is a red line between what can be said and what cannot. But you do not know where the line is until you’ve crossed it. (Huffington Post)
I don’t know what will be done to help those who continue to struggle for freedom in Tibet but it seems that the situation is becoming more and more aggravated as those, not unlike Tragyal, who remained silent in the beginning of the struggle have decided that fear of the Chinese government is no longer enough to keep them silent. Petitionspot.com has an ongoing petition for the release of Shogdung, please follow the link below to sign it. Below you will also find links to some good articles on this subject.
Release Shogdung Petition – Please sign http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/humansteps
The NY Times article: Tibetan Writer’s Intellectual Journey Leads to Trial by Andrew Jacobs
PDF Download of List of Imprisoned Tibetan Writers and Artists here.
Huffington Post article: New Wave of Dissent in Tibet Met by Crackdown on Writers by Kate Saunders
What do you think? Please comment.