The politically correct culture that has swallowed Western Civilization whole will leave no books, or pages in those books, unturned. As mentioned last week, writer Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series of books is now too offensive for contemporary America’s sensitivities, despite more than 60 million copies sold.
Three years before Wilder’s death in 1957, at 90, she was honored with a prominent children’s literature award in her name from the American Library Association (ALA). The medal is presented to those who have made “significant and lasting contributions to children’s literature.”
Wilder’s name was recently stripped from that honor because, according to the ALA, her life’s work “lacks inclusiveness” and contains “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments.”
Forget that Wilder’s books entertained generations and her work was not just popular, but celebrated and turned into a very successful television series that remains in syndication three decades later.
Wilder has formidable company as she now joins Mark Twain, also accused of “racism while writing.” When you abandon “Huckleberry Finn” because it uses racist language, you not only dismiss Twain’s enormous talent, but his shrewd reproach of racism itself. The same holds true of Wilder. Granted, the “Little House” series is racially unsympathetic, but we should still read it because, like “Huckleberry Finn,” both authors have plenty to say and even more to teach us. Wilder’s legacy was that her life’s vocation of writing pulled no punches and plainly told the unvarnished truth about America’s homesteading culture.
Both author’s oeuvre is dated, cultural perspectives toward Black and Native Americans that are not accepted today. Judging those who lived in another era by contemporary standards is grossly unjust.
By acknowledging our fallen humanity does not mean we can’t change our present.
A deeper read is certainly needed as both authors wrote about what they knew, and the historical viewpoints of the times are well represented — as they should be. This is how we learn from the past. Banning classic literature due to past attitudes and ideologies is foolhardy. Educating today’s faux outrage on the historical context of the times is paramount. Everyone should be encouraged to read all our provocative classics, but critically — when done, these accusations wouldn’t hold a half-pint of water.
The Founding Fathers understood that the very survival of our democracy depends on a well-informed citizenry, and given the poor state of public education, the fruit we reap is noxious. Students don’t necessarily want to do mandatory reading, but I can recall as a youngster reading many of “the Western literary classics” that included “Les Miserables” and the mere thought of undertaking its 1,400 pages made me well, miserable. Not only did such readings take up a chunk of my summer vacation, it also included book reports due the first day of class that Tuesday after Labor Day.
If anything, to be an effective reader, paradoxically, doesn’t mean being a discriminating reader, it means being an omnivorous reader. Reading widely, outside of what Facebook and Twitter call a news feed, can help everyone better comprehend the arguments on all sides, including their own.
In no way does it surprise that the “Little House” books have fallen out of favor with the leftist trifecta of Hollywood, academia and the media. Much of what Wilder writes about has flamed out long ago: Judeo-Christianity’s virtues, the traditional family and self-reliance, among others.
“Little House’s” sentence: banishment to the New Intangibles — literature’s limbo — the library of the undesirable, where works from our literary birthright that fail to pass muster with contemporary American mores now linger.
In essence, both Wilder and Twain have been retro-excommunicated from the classic American canon without the benefit of a public hearing. Meanwhile, Hollywood, the epicenter of liberaldom, has no issue with distributing Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes to all varieties of entertainment that belittle and mock all that America once was.
Wilder is just another one of our growing cultural anachronisms. Like the nation’s Founders, she is dead, white and archaic — where there is no room at America’s 2018 “Diversity Inn.”
This is the state of affairs in liberaldom.
What liberaldom will never concede is that this retitled writer’s award will be collecting dust long before Wilder books, like Twain’s before her, ever will.
(Maresca, a local freelance writer, composes “Talking Points” for each Sunday edition.)