Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Your stand on Race? I'm against it.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story this past weekend about a music teacher in Colorado who excluded all Christian Christmas carols from the school's holiday pageant, but who later showed her students excerpts of the opera Faust. Terry Teachout's analysis of the situation was penetrating: it seems that both sides of the argument, the cultural elite and the religious conservatives, are doomed to misunderstand each other.

The other day I was trying to email a file of teacher demographic data to a local school system. The message didn't make it there, because the censuring software on their server detected the words "Race" and "Sex" in the file. The very efforts the school was making to avoid discrimination based on gender or ethnicity was itself deemed unsuitable by the sensitivity police.

Human beings, alas, seem to display an equivalent level of total ignorance to context. This gets back to what I was writing about last night -- a reflexive antipathy to religion is about as equally unsubtle as a reflexive antipathy to the broader popular culture. Most culturally literate people know that objecting to Faust because of the presence of the Devil in it, or objecting to Huckleberry Finn because it uses the n-word (and I dare not even repeat it here, for fear some brainless robot will impound my blog), is the height of ignorance. Likewise, presuming that the mere presence of a Christmas carol is, by definition, offensive to non-Christians is about as ill-informed about both sets of believers as you can get.

I don't think we need an ounce more of sensitivity to overcome such misunderstandings. I think we need subtlety, which requires a brain as well as a heart.



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