08 September 2006

American Literature...and other ramblings

First of all, I am finally back in Happy Valley. Thank heaven for that. There's been plenty of drama back home, from what I hear. And because I think it goes along with today's rant...I'll explain.

Since I was a Freshman in High School, the drama department has done a grand total of 5 plays on tolerance. Our drama teacher is kind of stuck on the "accepting people who are different" rant. Which is fine and great, but after a while you get sick of all the same, downer play where half the people end up dead and or maimed. This years play is no different. My high school is going to put on The Laramie Project. For those of you who are ignorant about the play, I'll explain. The play is made up of monologues from interviews with people who were involved with the murder of Matthew Shepherd, a gay college student in Wyoming. The play contains more than eight "F" words and several other four letter obscenities, not to mention the graphic descriptions of sex and...well, you get the picture. It's not appropriate for high school. There's been a huge amount of uproar about it because the parents are upset. The administration has offered to remove the curse words, but the content is still there.

I could go into a rant about how terrible I think The Laramie Project is, but that's not my point.

I'm getting there, hold on.

Today in my American Lit class we had a discussion about the evolution about what is considered canon, and how that has changed over the years from just the old white guys to include black/Latino/Chinese/women writers etc. Discussions such as that one frustrate me. In my opinion, literature should be color/gender blind. Anthologies shouldn't include writers of a different race/gender/whatever because they are different, they should include the literature itself because it is good. No more should they include the old white guys because they've always been included before. On a very biased note, I'd take out all Hawthorne because I hate his writing, but that's me. My point is: we should read good literature because it's good literature, not because it's old and cliche (Tom Sawyer, for example. Or the Raven), or because it's new and controversial.

All of this fuss, to me, is just another case of the minority taking over the majority. This gets to being a bit of a hairy topic. I'm not saying that the minority shouldn't be heard. It would be a great loss if we didn't have some of the writings, or movies, or whatever from minorities. But at the same time, the majority is being compromised simply because they are a majority. This is why elementary schools in my home town had winter programs about Hanukkah and Kwanza but not Christmas. The majority is so afraid of offending the minority that the majority no longer has an equal shot. A middle class white person is, in many cases, just out of luck. Applying for scholarships is a nightmare, for example. We have become so obsessed with recognizing the new traditions that we have ignored the old ones. Christmas is still a huge part of American tradition whether you choose to celebrate it religiously or not.

This is the problem my parents are running into in protesting The Laramie Project. The majority of parents at home are conservative, but when they speak out against the content of the play, they are called bigots and closed minded.

I don't have a solution to this problem. I can see how both sides would be frustrated. It isn't fair that the majority is the majority. It makes it harder for the minority to get ahead. But it's also not fair for the minority to gain special privileges over the majority. It gets complicated. It's easy for me to say-I've always been told to treat people equally regardless of skin color or gender, or whatever, but this problem is bigger than me. It goes back hundreds of years.

So I guess I'll end with a quote from one of my favorite movies: "Who said life was fair? Where is that written?" It's certainly true. I would just like to know how a race/gender/sexual oriented nation will ever be able to establish what it is attempting to do while it remains obsessed.

No comments: