We’ve all watched as the “Cancel Culture” has become all the rage. Happily, it seems like people are tiring of it and trying to bring it to an end. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until folks on the right started to play by those rules that folks on the left discovered just how onerous the practice is.
Ruining someone’s ability to make a living, chasing them from going out to dinner or to show or just having a personal life, simply because their politics aren’t yours is ridiculous. It has no place in a civilized society. But it is the product of a generation or two that was never properly disciplined or held to any standard of conducting themselves like adults. We’ve allowed them to remain immature children into their 30s and 40s and we’re now reaping that odious harvest of what was sown.
Hopefully, we are seeing the end of it but there are still far too many instances of it happening today. Sadly, it seems to be going on strong in the literary world and it hasn’t been limited to creators who are still alive. Those people can at least defend themselves from attack. Lately, writers and creators long dead have become targets of the “Cancel Culture” and they cannot defend themselves from the grave.
It began with Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame. Enter the American Library Association – infested with the Social
REVENGE Justice crowd’s “Woke” brigade – who decided to strip Wilder’s long-associated name from its children’s books award.
The reason? She used contemporary language and viewpoints to describe interactions between her family and other settlers with the American Indians in her books written decades ago.
Then the same organization (yes, ChinaMike, it was the same organization and not “two separate ‘major’ organizations” as you claimed. But I have come to expect slipshod work and false information from your vile site for some time now) set their sites on Melvil Dewey. When you go to your public library and pull a book off the shelf, that tag on the spine with several numbers on it? That’s the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey was also prominent in establishing public libraries and encouraging reading. He was one of the founders of the American Library Association over 140 years ago.
His crime? He may – MAY – have sexually harassed women (there were never allegations of physical assaults, but of inappropriate comments and unwanted advances). He may have been anti-Semitic and racist. I say may, because no official charges were ever brought and the only evidence is a policy he wrote for the Lake Placid Club that barred membership for non-whites in 1904. In 2019, the same American Library Association that he founded stripped his name for one of its awards.
As with Wilder, the action was taken with no debate and the accused unable to present a defense.
With Wilder, all she did was accurately chronicle the times she lived in. To ostracize her for truthfully recording life in her times defeats the purpose of recording history. If we do not understand not only what happened, but why, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
With Dewey, he sounds like a bit of a creep. Sadly, there was no shortage of that type of attitude back then. As for the racism, the only evidence appears to be the Lake Placid Club. Was the document written to reflect his personal views? Or, was it a reflection of the times? Like it or not, the first half of the 20th Century was not a nice place for Jews, Blacks, Italians, Irish and many other groups in the United States.
Recently, a no-name author was awarded the John W. Campbell award for best new writer at the Hugos. She promptly showed her appreciation by trashing Campbell and triggered an immediate change in the award’s name for next year.
Campbell was crucified for being a fascist (I still haven’t seen anything to back up the allegation) as well as some “un-woke” views he put to paper decades ago. Again, the views Campbell published were considered “mainstream” in his time. Did he truly hold them or was he simply publishing what he thought the reading public wanted to hear? Or, was he simply trying to start a debate on the issue by getting the conversation started? I don’t know. No one alive truly does. And Campbell died a long time ago and is unable to defend himself today.
Which begs the question: What purpose is served by digging up the long dead and beating up on the corpse for past “sins” which weren’t considered “sins” during the time with which they lived? Had they committed actual crimes during their lives, I could see the outrage. But Wilder murdered no person because of their ancestry. Dewey was never accused of rape or causing physical harm to another because of the color of their skin.
Do we really want to set the precedent of being found guilty of being a product of one’s time? Would any of us fare better than they in a century if the people of the 22nd Century look back and judge us by the standards that they live by?
I doubt it. No one’s life can withstand scrutiny under that kind of a microscope. So, do we erase the good they did simply because they are guilty of not being the “Woke” creatures that *right thinkers* demand we all be today?
How about this. Let’s honor the good they accomplished and continue to have a discussion about all of the other parts of their legacy out in the open where something might be learned. Maybe even avoid repeating some of their errors along the way while we are at it?
This is one of the reasons why the Helicon Awards have adopted all three of these creators and named awards in their honor. Because we come to praise creators’ legacies, not to bury them.