The Nation’s Apology for Carlson-Wee

The long-established progressive magazine, The Nation, recently created a stir by publishing an Anders Carlson-Wee poem about homelessness, and then apologizing for doing so on the grounds that the poem contained inappropriate language (i.e., language that might be offensive to those demographic groups among the homeless that Carlson-Wee tries to identify with in the poem).

As a long-time liberal, it is demoralizing to see what liberalism has become. God forbid that a poet should use language deemed inappropriate by the cultural police. God forbid that artists should ever creatively identify with people of backgrounds other than themselves. God forbid that any one of us should ever try to put ourselves in the shoes of other races or demographics. Guard those boundaries between races and other demographic groups! Where Bull Connor conservatives failed, today’s liberals may yet succeed!

The whole event is a nice, tight summary of where liberals went wrong and gave up the moral high ground on matters of race. Or, as my grandmother used to say (my brackets added), “When you drive the devil from the front door [Bull Connor], he comes in the back [identity politics].”

Links in

The Atlantic

The New York Times

The Nation 

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8 thoughts on “The Nation’s Apology for Carlson-Wee

  1. It’s like I’ve always said. P.C. is a conversation stopper. It burns bridges, and we need to be about building them.

    I found when I was polishing my Eden in Babylon script that it was impossible to depict the world of Street Kids effectively without using foul language. “You mess with Winston, you mess with me” doesn’t sound plausible when the “f-word” is being replaced with a docile “m-word.”

    I stopped short of racial slurs by sidestepping the issue completely. I focused so much on classism that racism wasn’t even dealt with, which I think was a wise choice. I didn’t want to confuse the mix. Without striving for shock value at all, I think my depiction of street life, from having lived it, is shocking enough as it is.

    By the way, I still have your Hippies book, and thank you for that. I managed to finish reading two other books this year, but I’ve basically been such a stress case it’s hard for me to relax and get through an entire book these days. But I’m sure that once I start it up again, it will be hard to put down.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, A.P. Btw, another novel of mine, Mr. Robert’s Bones, uses the n-word once, at the midpoint of the novel. It is also the symbolic center of the novel, the dark, near-invisible point around with the rest of the story revolves. I suspect some knee-jerk outrage from the usual suspects, but I’m still hopeful that most readers, black and white, will read with an eye on nuance and context and the role this usage plays in the overall treatment of racism in the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. On a sheerly artistic level, I think it’s more effective to use such words sparingly. I saw a TV movie once where they used f—ing so frequently it lost impact. It almost became the only word I heard, and it obscured the more salient dialogue. I think I only used the f-word five times in EinB, the s-word more often.

    Interestingly, my first assignment from the new Street Spirit editor was to do a piece on how the major of S.F. said that homeless advocacy groups weren’t doing their job because there was too much shit on the sidewalks. This led to an interesting discussion as to what constitutes abusive language. We decided that “shit” will be okay in any context, but that we’d stop short of f–k.

    By the way, it’s this post: https://edeninbabylon.com/2018/08/09/when-you-gotta-go/ called “When You Gotta Go” on my Thursday blog. Somebody suggested the title be changed to “S*it Happens” (with or without the asterisk).

    Ah, but I digress . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the f-word is fair game, but artistic impact suggests that if used it should be used efficiently and not gratuitously. That’s my preference too … although if others find it amusing the hear the f-word at a higher density level, they’re entitled to their preference as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, sorry I thought you said the “f-word” – and I was replying as though you had. The “n-word” is a different story. On the streets I learned that while “n—er” was reserved for those of African descent, “n–ga” was acceptable. The problem was, with the word spoken (often harshly) it was very hard to tell the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Again, my preference is that the n-word should not be used gratuitously (and that only malice or idiocy could prevent one from seeing that this is justifiably more sensitive than the f-word). But an outright ban, irrespective of context, especially a ban selectively applied depending on the (often unknown) race of the artist, stifles creativity and empathy. The liberal groups that have successfully banned Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird in certain jurisdictions have missed the point in my opinion. Those are two of the most powerful books in the historical fight against racism, and to sweep them under the rug certainly does good for those who would understand how we got here and where we should be going.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow – that’s right! Amazing how the very books which were so progressive toward promoting racial integration are being banned by the very so-called “progressives” who ought to be upholding racial unity. Instead, they uphold divisiveness between the races; and therefore, in a sense, segregation.

    I knew there was a reason why I liked you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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