Rants of a Grumpy Old Man:  Let’s Cancel Cancel Culture

taped mouth with the word cancelled over it Cancelled

Cancel Culture. You’ve heard of it, surely. It is the new Moral Majority telling us what we can or cannot read, watch, or even think without offending someone’s oh-so-sensitive feelings and making them run off, seeking a “safe space.”

Have you noticed how when “disturbing” footage is shown on TV, there is a warning that the images you are about to see may “trigger” trauma in the viewer. Then, disappointingly, we are shown something that would be rejected as way too tame and boring by any video game manufacturer, so we are left, unfulfilled in our anticipation.

Why, I wonder, is there no “trigger warning” for when Trump speaks his lunacies and lies? The media, of course, will claim this is his right to “free speech,” yet why then cancel those who actually know how to use language, and by this I mean writers (some of the greatest) who have been “cancelled” throughout their careers? Trump can stand up and mock a man in the audience with palsy, imitating his shaking; he can call a woman Pocahontas and gleefully tell an interviewer that he likes to grab women by the “pussy,” but people delight in this (except for the slimeballs on CNN who feign indignation, all the while showing clips again and again of his behavior in order to boost their ratings). All the while, Dr. Seuss has been “cancelled” for supposed racist depictions in his children’s poems. Yes, yes, I know that green eggs are a slur on hens who can’t get it right, but surely the reader should know that the yolk is on them.

I think of great writers who have been cancelled for daring to use their imagination, only to be vilified for pornography, misogyny, and countless other heinous crimes against prudery. Think of the great D.H. Lawrence and how Lady Chatterley’s Lover had to be printed in Dijon, France as the printers could not read the purported obscenities in English, all because he named a body part John Thomas. Still, he never went so far as to call Connie’s privates “Chatterbox”.

Think of the ban on Joyce’s Ulysses, all because Leopold Bloom starts off his day with a morning shit, farts in a bar, masturbates while watching a girl on a beach show his knickers to him, and ends up caressing his wife’s buttocks at the end of a long, grueling day. Doesn’t this sound like your typical day, and why would you want to cancel that?

The list is long: Mark Twain for writing Huckleberry Finn, not for the possible homoerotic content, but for “demeaning” Jim and using the “N” word; Henry Miller, writing novels that no one wanted to publish, brave enough to be totally honest about sexuality, but more because of his subversive attitude about the soullessness of society; Vladimir Nabokov, for writing a novel like Lolita (one of the great 20th century masterpieces), which is one of the funniest books every written plus a great satire on the Aristotelean convention requiring that a work of art has to have a didactic purpose, instead of a purely aesthetic one; Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Mock A Killing Bird (I know, I know…a Freudian slip…) for I don’t even know what; Mark SaFranko’s brilliant Hating Olivia, mainly for lampooning the American Dream all while presenting some of the steamiest sexual episodes ever put onto paper. The publishing industry vilified this book not because of the erotic content, but because it showed America as the Emperor with No Clothes, and effectively cancelled it.

What’s next? Book burnings? Or, is that redundant since no one reads anymore?

Some decades ago, the great American writer, William Styron, wrote The Confessions of Nat Turner which riled Black scholars so much that they actually published a collection of essays lambasting Styron. Their main argument was that a white Southern writer had no business writing about a Black slave revolt. More recently, Canadian novelist, Joseph Boyden, wrote a novel called The Orenda, about the history of Indigenous people. Boyden’s great crime was not with the content of the story, but with him claiming to be Indigenous, which was later proven to be false. The book was judged not on its literary merit, but on the veracity of his claim. He was promptly cancelled, and publishers won’t touch his work with a ten-foot pole. What I found absolutely hilarious about the indignation exhibited by the Canadian literary establishment was when this book appeared on the show Canada Reads (where a famous Canadian—if there is, in fact, one — has to advocate for this book in a sort of literary debate). The person advocating for Boyden was one Wab Kinew, the current Premier of Manitoba, and an Indigenous person. He had such a hard-on for Boyden’s novel (calling it the “Most Important Work of Canadian Historical Fiction”), that he even greeted Boyden in Ojibwe as Boyden responded in kind. Bet Kinew did not talk about that gaff during his leadership campaign!

So, if we are so psyched to cancel things, let’s also cancel the following:

The Book of Genesis: how about that depiction of the evils of women, so pissing off God that He curses them with the pain of childbirth? How about what happens to the Snake, an insult to all herpetologists, who run screaming for a “safe space” whenever they read that sacred text.

While we’re at it, let’s cancel all of the sacred texts, no? In our secular society, surely books on spirituality have no place and can trigger guilt and doubt, perhaps even actually make people think, object, and dissent. But free expression and matters of the spirit have no place in our troubled world, or so our media and our cancel culture tell us.

And (I have to slip this in), let’s cancel the U.S. Supreme Court for them cancelling Roe v. Wade, effectively setting back Women’s Rights 100 years. For Shame!

Finally, let’s cancel this columnist for his cynical, abrasive, rude, and scathing views on culture, art, and politics. If you read this column (if you can even tear yourself away from your smart phones and still remember to read, not just in sound bytes) and feel you need a “safe space,” crawl into it because in the real world there are people with opinions, many of which you won’t like, people with points of view different from yours, people who are mean, selfish and horrid, but also some, albeit rare, who dare to sneak in a truth or two that can make you see your world in a new and different way.

Welcome back to Life.