Sensitivity - The New Banning?

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Sensitivity - The New Banning?

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Jun 30, 2009, 1:51pm

I had someone LOL-forward this to me, but then I wondered, is sensitivity going to become our new real-life ban-hammer? Moral objections seem to be falling out of favor, but we do seem to be in favor of protecting folks from harm, don't we? Check the Dear Abby letter:

DEAR ABBY: My son was required to read "Romeo and Juliet" in his freshman year of high school. It has always bothered me that this play is considered good for teenagers to read, much less required reading. The story ends with Romeo and Juliet committing suicide, which is considered "romantic."

Teen suicide is on the rise. I feel we don't need teens seeing this in literature as a romantic way out of problems. What do you think? -- MICHELLE IN CHUBBUCK, IDAHO

DEAR MICHELLE: The writings of William Shakespeare have long been considered classics of literature, and when students are assigned to read "Romeo and Juliet," it's done under the guidance of a teacher. The characters' suicides have never been considered a reasonable solution to the problem of their warring families not allowing them to be together; the play is regarded as a Shakespearian tragedy.

Suicide among teens does not happen because of blighted romance. It happens because the teenager is mentally disturbed, and friends and families are unable to pick up on cues that the young person is in serious trouble. That is why when someone talks or "jokes" about committing suicide, it's so important to report it so the person can get professional help.

I started thinking about how we've been doing a lot in the name of "the kids" of late. Janet Jackson's FCC Fine, David Letterman is now a perverted old man, we're apparently on the verge of child pornography on every is this "think of the children?" approach without the overly religious messages the next big thing?

It's a scary thing to think of fighting...and worse yet if we have to steer kids towards nothing but happy and positive stories.

Jun 30, 2009, 2:46pm

Politicians are grabbing power, with the phrase "Think of the Children". If more parents would parent, it would solve a lot more problems than a bunch more rules.

Jul 1, 2009, 8:10am

Whenever a politician mentions 'family values' or 'think of the children' I thank them for their support for Universal Healthcare. Normally I get a blank stare or an irrelivent email in return.

Jul 14, 2009, 11:23am

There's sensitivity, and then there's stupidity. A friend of mine at Borders had a customer the other day who complained about a picture book version of The Secret Garden that featured an illustration of a message to one of the characters, with the child's name writ large on the envelope: Dickon. She complained that this was child pornography.

Apparently she meant more than complaining about an old-fashioned English nickname that to our ears may sound a bit naughty, but her thought processes were too obscure for either my friend or me to follow.

But then I recall an episode at Waldenbooks in the 1980s when a parent complained to me about Charlotte's Web being on a school reading list, the objection being that the book features talking animals. Which is demonic.

The problem with these one-off wacky situations, which any reasonable person would consider unreasonable, is that if the offended person decides to make a public issue of their opposition, there will always be people rushing to join them, without even examining the work in question themselves.

Jul 19, 2009, 6:41pm

I find it offensive to read anything encouraging the banning of books. Therefore, anything that talks about banning books should be banned.

I don't really understand this whole "protect the children" thing that's happening. What are we protecting them from? Are we trying to make it so that they're never exposed to things that might make them uncomfortable or something? Is death really something they should be ignorant of? It's all hogswallop, in my opinion. Sheltering kids from things isn't the answer. The younger generations are just going to continue to grow stupider and stupider. Sure, they'll have more empirical knowledge, perhaps, but no knowledge of life and truth and beauty and tragedy and everything else that's important in this world. The human race is definitely being conditioned to be too sensitive, nowadays.

Jul 20, 2009, 12:37pm

My husband and I just finished watching Michael Apted's Up Documentary Series - and it sort of made me think of this in an off-hand way. It starts with the kids in 1964 - there's a point where they take all the kids to an "Adventure Park" to play.

We were laughing at the heart-attack most parents would have if they saw this adventure park today. It looked like it was mostly made from construction piece cast-offs and was designed to have kids be able to move around and build their own things. There were pieces of wood, pipe and tools to use. Rope swings were attached to poles that didn't have 3 feet of wood chips beneath them.

Nothing was made of plastic or pressure-treated anything. And all of the children survived to the 49 Up documentary filmed in 2006.

I think we've gotten a lot more "what if" paranoid. And now that we've cleaned up parks and safety equipment, we've got to get to media.

Same reason that Season 1 of Sesame Street does come with a parental warning as well. We can't play follow the leader like this anymore!

Set 18, 2009, 10:14am

I'm not sure that using 'sensitivity' as a reason to ban books is all that new. Erotic literature has always suffered from a (possibly sizable) fraction of the community who discourage such literature because it makes them uncomfortable. Of course they sometimes express their disapproval in terms of protecting minors (or, as in the case of Lady Chatterley, servants). This literature is often disparaged as 'pornographic', and bookstores, if allowed to stock it at all, often relegate it to the 'Top Shelf', thus disadvantaging the 'vertically challenged.

The current permissiveness regarding erotic literature is, I suspect, because of the relative unstoppability of the Internet, which allows images, considered even more reprehensible.

Set 18, 2009, 10:52am

Stephmo - that is indeed a disturbing video clip. More than the frolicking in a construction site and climbing through a rusty metal pipe, I'm especially bothered about the sheet. I mean, someone obviously went to a lot of bother to wash it and hang it up, and then those brats ground it into the dirt. ;-) I remember seeing that clip when I was a kid, and none of this bothered me then.

Set 18, 2009, 12:15pm

>8 Nickelini: Hah! I will say that I was saddened to see that the creek across the street and the huge storm pipe we used to play in back in the day had become a major construction project. Apparently, they extended the storm pipe the length of the creek and then filled in the rest of the creek.

For safety.

But, yeah - how much trouble would I have been n with my grandmother if I had touched drying sheets in that condition? =P