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What I Meant To Say Was....

Working in a bookstore, I've seen a lot of strange things and a lot of stranger customers--- some things I've mentioned on this blog, most things I haven't (though I probably should have, just for the sheer entertainment). But, once in a while, I'll hear/come across something that gives me pause... like a customer I had a few days ago who was looking for a copy of Mein Kampf.

Customer: I'm looking for a copy of Mein Kampf.
Me: We usually have a copy or two in...
     (walk over to the Biography section, where the book normally is, but we're sold out)
Me: Looks like we're out, I could order you one, though...
Customer: Does it have a black cover?
Me: Yes, it does.
Customer: I don't want that one.
Me: Okay, we can go back to the computer and look up other editions, see which one you might want.
Customer: I don't trust most translations--- there's too much taken out...
Me: Yeah, I can understand that... some might be more readable than others, or, if you have a biased translator--
Customer: Yeah, like if they're Communists...

Ohhhh-Kayyyyy.... wasn't expecting that one.

I did understand where he was coming from... almost. I mean, I don't know from Communist translators, but, I understand the difference that comes from altering something (even unintentionally) from its original state.

I've blogged about this type editing before. When Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn came under re-write to remove the N-word. I understand Professor Gribben's intention for creating a more palatable version of the classic. But, in doing so, he removes the crux of the story's power. Children/students won't be able to understand the meaning behind something if they aren't exposed to it. You can't take away the word and expect them to learn it (and the reason they shouldn't use it). It's like refusing to instruct children in manners but expecting them to abide by them.

Words are powerful---- the whole 'pen-is-mightier-than-the-sword' notwithstanding.

Words themselves have power, and changing the words, can, effectively change that power--- sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Lately, I've been thinking about how forced-edits, though they may be made with the best intentions, can sometimes make everything worse (or, at least, more confusing).

I hear people jumping up and down, all the time, about schools removing/requiring the pledge of allegiance, or preventing/mandating prayer--- they claim we're taking/forcing Patriotism and Religion from/in the education of our children.

I, personally, don't think prayer should be included in schools. I DO, however, believe that comparative religion should be taught, starting in elementary school, so children have the opportunity to learn of different faiths, so they might understand them better--- school isn't the place for indoctrination (that's what churches/temples/synagogues/mosques are for).

I know this would make many parents uncomfortable. But, it's no different than teaching Math or Science in a classroom. Being taught the differences/similarities in beliefs does NOT mean that we're being brainwashed into accepting something else. It just means we know what it is that other people believe, and can, perhaps, tolerate our varied neighbors as a result. To say we shouldn't read/learn something because we are prone to accepting it as truth is like saying we shouldn't read things like Dracula for fear of becoming Vampires. Or, that we shouldn't learn how to juggle for fear of it making us run away to join the circus.

And, I have no issue with the Pledge of Allegiance, given its original form--- written in 1892 by Baptist Minister, Francis Bellamy:
"I pledge allegiance, to my flag and the republic for which it stands, 
one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Bellamy makes no mention of a God, his faith is implied--- he doesn't need to name it or pledge it. A person's faith does not dictate their patriotism. An Atheist or a Jew can be as loyal to their country as any Baptist or Catholic or Muslim. 

I can see the importance of the 1924 addendum to include "of the United States of America"--- just so we're clear about which republic we're pledging to. 

Our country was founded by settlers seeking FREEDOM---religious, political, and personal--- to accept/demand one religion to the exclusion of all others makes us very hypocritical offspring of our freedom-fighting-forefathers. Just as our "indivisible" country is made of 50 individual states with their own set of laws, so is our population made of individual thinkers with their own set of beliefs. This is what makes America, America.

I also hear people jumping up and down during December when we, as retailers, answer the phone--- Happy Holidays, thank you for calling                         , my name's                      , how may I help you?  --- they claim we're taking "Christ" out of "Christmas" by not wishing them a Merry Christmas.
We retail workers are often the front-line during the yearly holiday-shopping debacle. And, for my store, at least, we start saying Happy Holidays before Thanksgiving and continue until New Years---- so, in fairness, we ACTUALLY mean Happy Holidays (considering ALL the holidays that fall at this time of year). Am I offended when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Yule or a Happy Kwanzaa or a Happy Hanukkah when I practice no religion at all?  

Certainly not! 

But, that's because I understand the sentiment behind the words, even if I don't practice a religion--- it's nice to know someone cares enough to wish me well, whatever our different beliefs may be. 

Courtesy isn't defined by someone's religion. Faith doesn't have a monopoly on kind words. Our hearts shouldn't be so closed, or quick to shout "foul!" when someone wishes us well using a form we wouldn't use. A well-wisher never intends to offend and raising one's hackles in defense is just petty. 

I guess what I'm saying is... every word has a meaning, some more powerful than others. And, before we use/change/remove/add anything, we should be absolutely sure what it is we're intending to say. Though, the reverse is also true... before we react/defend/retaliate from a word's offense, we should be absolutely sure what the speaker intended. A little common sense, a little decency and  a little tolerance goes a long way. For all our good intentions, changing the state of the world, doesn't happen when we push our beliefs/opinions on others, but when we open our hearts to the beliefs/opinions of others. The force of change is strongest when it works from the inside out.  


  1. hmm sounds like one scary right wing dude who you find a few of down south

    1. LOL... yep, he was a bit scary---- and VERY excited about the $24K personally autographed copy of Mein Kampf he saw on ebay....


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