Averyell A. Kessler
They start with tiny scissors. They always do. Just a snip here, an erasure there, the elimination a questionable adjective or an unacceptable word not in sync with careful vanilla vocabulary. Once begun, there is more to come. Soon sewing shears emerge, then knives. Censorship has been going on since Socrates drink hemlock. I saw a ridiculous and vivid example a long time ago. I’ve named it codpiece cancel culture. It’s a ridiculous alliteration, but it makes me laugh.
During my one and only trip to Rome, Vatican City was a must see for me and my family. Accompanied by a well-informed guide, we wandered through the splendors of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Square, and stood on the spot where St. Peter was supposedly crucified. The glorious Sistine Chapel was next. Before we entered, our guide led us through a large room filled with unidentified male statues crammed together so tightly that we could not see daylight between them. Most were nudes, some covered only by a scant bit of drapery. All, however, lacked a vital portion of male anatomy. Only gaping holes remained, as if the offending parts had been hacked off or broken with a chisel. Ouch!
“What’s this,” I asked.
“Oh, so sad,” the guide answered. “All this beauty destroyed needlessly.”
“Why?” I continued.
“At one time, no one remembers when, certain priests decided that the exposure of male nudity was scandalous and insulting to God. They covered these statues with marble fig leaves. They were very poorly crafted and offended far more than nature. After much criticism and laughter, the church set about removing the fig leaves. They discovered that it was impossible to remove them, and the statues were damaged beyond repair. No one knows much about them. What a shame!”
“I’m glad they didn’t ruin the statute of David,” I said.
“We all are,” our guide replied. “When beauty is destroyed, it cannot be recovered.”
Where’s common sense when you need it? Seems like its riding out of town on a fast horse. What’s next? Who knows?
Once again, the ugly specter of book banning oozes out of the darkness, invades a school library, and attempts to silence literary classics because someone’s feelings might be hurt.
History is rewritten to provide a more acceptable version or a more deplorable one. Take your pick. Flocks of human sheep gather to bah and protest open debate as well as the fundamentals of a liberal arts education. An anonymous internet fact checker in a far-away cubicle announces that a statement is not a “true fact” and presents a fine example of redundancy.
It interests me that few censors seek to blot out overt violence, kiddie porn, slander, or abuse. Somehow, these seem to make the cut. Sadly, those who know best, have perfected the ability to sniff out offense as they define it. One of my favorite Julian Fellows quotes is spoken by the Dowager Countess Violet of the Downton Abby series “Is it chilly on high moral ground?”
Yes, Countess, it’s damn chilly. I’d say frozen.
I am wary of spineless souls whose opinions include a list of degrees, achievements, and credits trailing behind them like the bedraggled tail of a sinking kite. I have more confidence in the thoughts of a delta cotton farmer driving his John Deere across a wide field, than in internet mobs or the rabble of academia. Tiny scissors are out now. There is more to come. Count on it.
“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.” Justice Potter Stewart.