In 1973, after a teacher at Drake High School in North Dakota introduced Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, an over-zealous school board head demanded that all the copies be burned to protest the novel’s “obscene language.” Vonnegut intervened via a letter as pointed out by Jason Kottke. The entire impassioned letter is worth a read, but I noted this section:
If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.
After I have said all this, I am sure you are still ready to respond, in effect, “Yes, yes–but it still remains our right and our responsibility to decide what books our children are going to be made to read in our community.” This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that.
What Vonnegut is objecting to is clearly an act of stupidity, but moreover, he is battling a cultural divide. His book was misunderstood and so it was burned. Such as it often is with games, no? If last year’s Supreme Court case taught us anything, it’s that games are on the same path as “licentious” books and comics. We simply do not yet have the faculties as a society to understand them.
[via Letters of Note]