Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pull the trigger warning.

An online writing group recently debated the merits of trigger warnings in literature. For the most part the writers were against the idea, as being craven and foolish, dangerous and disturbing. A few were more sympathetic to the triggerbes, saying that movies are rated according to their content in the U.S., so you know what you're getting when you go to see one -- why not books?

Personally, I think the whole thing is a bright blue box of foolishness in a big brilliant bow of stupidity.

The latter argument comes from a place of niceness and a desire to protect children, but seems to come from a place too where no one has seen a book in a hundred years. If I flinch at violence or am looking for a book for my second grader, and I am offered a book with a bloody hatchet and an eyeball and a human spleen on the cover and a title like Kill Them Slowly and Eat Them, should I be surprised if it's not what I'm looking for?

I've heard it argued that trigger warnings show respect for victims of terrible things. Conversely, that this is political correctness run wild. I think it's censorship in the most insidious form I have ever encountered, and I look to the American Library Association to slap down this ridiculous idea, champions as they are of banned books and the First Amendment.

[insert crickets]

Most of this talk is on college campuses, where we're supposedly trusting adults to become educated. These young men and women would love to tell you that they're strong enough and mature enough to make all the choices they need to, without interference from Mom and Dad or faculty advisers or chaperones or anyone... and they can't face Huck Finn or The Merchant of Venice?

How many of these students have been traumatized, really?

I guess PTSD makes people shy away from the things that traumatized them, huh? That's why veterans refuse to join the American Legion or the VFW.

Look, I dislike meaningless violence in literature and movies, so I avoid those books and movies as a matter of taste, but when I was a student I had to read books that offended me in every possible way. So what? Maybe I even learned something.

I don't want to be mean, but come on. If you're unable to function because you have to read Mrs. Dalloway, you need more therapy.

Sorry, cupcakes: Life is hard and hiding from certain books won't change that. Stop whining. If you can't face the books, change your major to accounting. Much better chance of finding work that way after you graduate, anyhow.

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