In our enlightened age of collectivist wisdom, "common" has come to mean something wonderful, utopian, almost mystical -- something shared by all in the brotherhood of true equality -- instead of something base, crass, coarse and vulgar, which is mostly what I remember it meaning as a child.
There was a time when no one wanted to be "common". Of course this aversion did not hold true when you added the word "sense" to it. "Sense" turned the vulgarity of "common" into the plain-spoken wisdom of the average man, a trait valued in America. But this is often the case with language. There are nuances.
Nuances can be important. As conservatives, though, we are rarely, if ever, fully aware of them. We aren't able to grasp the subtleties, the refined elegance so often conveyed in the nuance. This makes us want to smash things. Or read comic books where heroes in costumes smash things.
So it isn't surprising at all that there has been an uproar by stupid conservatives over the discovery that one of the books listed among the Common Core exemplar texts for 11th grade is Toni Morrison's, "The Bluest Eye." (WARNING!!!! Link contains graphic sexual content -- but also a VERY good article.) We, of course, missed the nuances.
If you read "The Bluest Eye" you might think it is about dysfunctional families and individuals who express their self-hatred, lack of morals, and purposeless lives through anger, fighting, alcoholism, sexual deviancy, incest, child molestation, rape, pedophilia and predation. But you would be wrong. You would have missed the nuances. It is about racism. It is about how racism shapes everything in a black person's world so that they are hapless victims utterly destroyed by whitey. Even the most degenerate of behaviors are only the result of this emotional destruction.
You see, everything that the characters do to each other in this novel stems from the fact that they are black in a white world. They are all victims. Society is the culprit, the rapist, the abuser, not them. White society, to be precise. So the reader is encouraged through Ms. Morrison's direction to see themselves as the rapist, the abuser, the pedophile, to sympathize.
Obviously the reason behind some parents calls for removing the book are the graphic depictions of incest, rape and pedophilia. And not just that, the book actually lets the reader see the depictions from the perpetrators point of view.
In fact, the author of the book, Morrison, says that she wanted the reader to feel as though they are a “co-conspirator” with the rapist. She took pains to make sure she never portrayed the actions as wrong in order to show how everyone has their own problems. She even goes as far as to describe the pedophilia, rape and incest “friendly,” “innocent,” and “tender.” It’s no wonder that this book is in the top 10 list of most contested books in the country.The fact that she often chose to describe these acts from the point of view of the perpetrator in order to make him sympathetic to the reader is nuance. As a bona fide knuckle-dragging conservative, I would suggest that whether it is nuance or not, it is also dangerous, confusing, potentially psychologically damaging to a 16 or 17 year old, and actually outrageously demeaning to the black characters in the novel.
The American Academy of Pediatrics studies and develops policies pertaining to youth from birth through age 21, and specifically lists books as part of the mass media environment examined by their institution. The AAP states that exposure to violence in media has a significant risk on the health of children and adolescents and can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares and fear of being harmed. It is also associated with teen pregnancy and promiscuity. The AAP has also called on schools specifically to do more in the way of preventing young people from being exposed to and negatively impacted by harmful media.
So there is nuance, and then there is flat out, unadulterated, undeniable pornography and violence. I am not going to copy the excerpts from this novel. If you want to read them, and the rest of Ms. France's exceptional article about this book, go here. It is sexual content so graphic, so repulsive that reading it only entices the reader to experience the basest of human urgings. Explicit descriptions of sexual behavior so depraved that virtually all societies in history have forbidden such acts. But in today's enlightened world, incest, rape and pedophilia are simply nuances, artful constructs to convey the tortured yet sympathetic depravity of the helpless black person caught in a white world.
If I were a black person, I would be furious -- FURIOUS! at such a depiction. To suggest that being black is so monstrous a burden that one is helpless to prevent the fall into the most disgusting, degrading, and damaging of behaviors is to reduce black people almost to the level of animals. It is to suggest that simply because of their blackness they are incapable of loving themselves enough to have values, morals and principles that guide their behavior in constructive and healthy ways. This is outrageous -- and it is horribly demeaning.
Remember, the flip side to playing the eternal victim is that one must remain the eternal child. In "The Bluest Eye" author, Toni Morrison, tries to convince us that being black in a white world absolves one from everything by reducing the black person to a state of perpetual childhood, so that even the adults are drawn sympathetically as they prey on their own children.
And it's all whiteys' fault.