Thursday, September 20, 2012

Twas The Time Before Idiocy

Many years ago, during the Nixon administration in the U.S., Vice-President Spiro Agnew once called the press “the nattering nabobs of negativity.”

Perhaps that chestnut of a phrase, which was actually penned in a speech for the Veep by William Safire, could be applied today to the folks who wish to reign over language and culture with the sanitization that is political correctness.

How else could you explain the idea of taking a poem that is a Christmas classic, written by Clement Clarke Moore back in 1822, and changing it for the sake of appeasing today’s sensibilities of removing anything a child might see or hear that has a negative connotation?

I am referring to Twas The Night Before Christmas, also known as A Visit from St. Nicholas. Recently a Canadian publisher removed all references of Santa’s smoking from the 200 year old verse. In the updated version you will no longer see the line, “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."

While I have no doubt that the publisher did this with good intentions, altering the work of a classic poem to fit with modern times is censorship at worst and just plain wrong in the world of common sense.

I know smoking in today’s culture is considered a heinous, cancerous culling of the herd, but if we are to continue down this dangerous path of rewriting artistic history, where will it end?

Well, let’s stick with Mr. Moore’s work, shall we? This is a 14-verse poem and the offending puffing doesn’t take place until the 11th verse. There are things to worry about right from the start.

In the first verse we learn that the house might have mice. Surely this isn’t a healthy environment to bring up a child. These little rodents carry disease, after all.

In the second verse the children are dreaming of sugar plums. This is just the gateway to an obese society.

To me, the most offensive part of the poem shows up in the eighth verse. This is where we first learn as children that Santa Claus specializes in breaking and entering. In today’s world we spend a lot of time concerned about security. We lock our windows and doors at night, set the alarm, and some keep weapons near or under the bed. Yet, we seem to welcome a jolly old elf who sneaks into our house at midnight. Shouldn’t this be a bigger concern than his personal vices?

And let’s not forget the elephant in the room here. Santa’s fat! With a sleigh full of toys his girth is overtaxing the strength of a mere eight tiny reindeer. Isn’t this animal cruelty? (And by the way, he also wears fur from head to toe!)

And speaking of reindeer, there are those who say that this method of traveling might be a greener, less polluting way to ride. Well, have you ever been in a parade following the horses? Now imagine they could fly?

And what do we really know about this Santa character anyway? He spends his time with elves, he knows each and every child, keeps meticulous lists on them, but has no kids of his own. Don’t we usually call somebody in cases like this?

Okay, in the last paragraph, I mixed up two Christmas classics, Twas The Night Before Christmas with Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. But I did for a very valid reason. If we continue to sanitize works like a 200 year old poem, then how can a song that only dates back to the 1930’s survive the politically correct wrecker’s ball?

How about we just let the classics stand on their own merit and read them to our kids? If the little darlings have questions about the content, use it as a teachable moment and move on, all the while marvelling at how forward thinking your little DNA project has become. After all, you’re in for a lifetime of tough questions and teachable moments with your kids anyway, so what’s one more?

As a child I never questioned Santa’s smoking (and I come from a family of non-smokers) or even his annual breaking into my living room. Personally, I was more freaked out about the Tooth Fairy sneaking into my room and going under my pillow, while I was sleeping on it! But that’s a therapy session for another time.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it

12 comments:

  1. Flaming, bloody idiot, (not you, Peter). There is little difference between this and book burning.

    They are someone else's words that we can chose to read or not read.

    There should be no tampering with the words of an author or playwright.

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  2. Lorne Shatner-FriedenbergSeptember 21, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Great piece Peter, and TOUCHE!

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  3. Agree with every word.
    I will be glad when the PC pendulum returns to the centre.

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  4. In a genderless directional society, nothing more should surprise us.

    Baseless as it all is it is what it is, political correctness and mockery of where we were. But that was yesterday. Today we simply don’t want to offend anyone from atheists to Muslims.

    But as Christians we seem to be the only one having to make these stupid adjustments.

    Hey, this isn’t just about smoking is it. It is cultural just as surely as it is a religious knock em down. Smoking is dangerous, so is being fat so you can be sure we’ll have a skinny Santa next year and even no Santa by the year after that.

    Gee, I wonder if Christmas itself will disappear too…………then Easter……..then, and so on and so on, but you can be sure others will NOT have to follow suit……or change dress codes.

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  5. Dang! Looks like that damned Xmas guilt-ridden shopping frenzy will be upon us yet again. I’m sure Crappy Tire will have all the tacky Xmas garbage on display and will be playing the endless loop of Jingle Bell Rock on the PA any day now. The BS seems to start a week earlier every year.

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  6. The sanitization of art stinks

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  7. Ha, ha... Very good. I sometimes wonder if we're really more advanced than we used to be in the past. I mean really. Who cares if he had a pipe. That's the way it was back then. Seeing Santa with a pipe didn't make me want to smoke one any more than seeing Wile E. Coyote fall off a cliff make me want to try that either

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  8. For the sake of sanity – The original poem was called A Visit From St. Nicholas, the word breast appeared where we now see crest and the reindeers names were even changed in later editions. The closed minded would like to see all but the purest of edition on the shelf. If we took this thing back to its original verse and cast out all editions with alterations the book shelves in the stores this Christmas would be bare. Surely there is room for one that has a clear and undeniable goal of helping prevent kids from starting on tobacco. Remember what happened to cartoon character Joe Camel when he rivaled Mickey Mouse. They outlawed him. It is currently illegal to advertise tobacco in the United States by using cartoon characters as smoking. This was done as a result of educated research findings. May the dusty antiquarian holders of Canadian culture loosen their reins – after all this is an American poem and as it is in the public domain it is the publishers right, my right to take artistic license with it. People need to step up to the conversation of the issue of youth tobacco and cultural influences.

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    Replies
    1. Pamela, are you suggesting that all old literature, movies etc, should be revised (edited) to eliminate all depictions of bad or unhealthy habits? What about violence and murder and that kind of thing? How far would you go to shield our kids from reading about or seeing bad stuff?

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  9. Strange how these days we have to change our ways and views on just about any issue to please other denominations. We are being forced to kowtow in order not to offend anyone. The sickening and most frightening part it is only going to get worse.

    Dave you said a mouth full…. I feel this is only the beginning. I am saying this without prejudice….the gov, schools, churches…etc etc, should stand up and put a stop to this nonsense before these groups take full control of our nation. They are slowly infiltrating themselves throughout the world and demanding too much once there are established in a country. The scary part is they are being appeased.

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  10. And we sure don’t want to offend the Walmarts and Canadian Tires, that depend on the Xmas shopping frenzy to stay profitable. That’s what it’s all about. Very few people give a rat’s hat about the supposed birth date of J.C. and that is a good thing. Now if we could ditch the relentless commercial aspect of “the most wonderful time of the year” we’d all be better off.

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  11. Concur wholeheartedly, such classics should be not be tampered with.

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