Confused thinking led to Kate Smith ban

To the editor:

I (a cradle Flyers fan) must respectfully disagree with the diversity industry on the need to ban Kate Smith’s glorious “God Bless America” from polite society. These Six Degrees of Separation-type rules that the experts are setting for who or what from our past is unobjectionable enough to be seen, heard or discussed — let alone admired or revered — are needlessly, even ridiculously, stringent. (In another recent example, we’re told Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic books must be hidden away because she once put one anti-Native American sentence in the mouth of one character.) But this degree of mental purity is impossible to apply evenly. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves; he also wrote the Declaration of Independence; should it be banned from schools? Multiple movies from the 1980s portrayed homosexuals in ways that would never be done today; should every actor who appeared in those films be blackballed? Billy Joel sang “Only the Good Die Young,” a vile mocking of my faith community; he also sang dozens of other songs, some of them pretty good; should they all be banned from the airwaves? Gilded Age mansions were doubtless built with underpaid, non-union labor; shall they be bulldozed?

In part, we are suffering from confused thinking. Human beings are endlessly complex, a mixture of unique soul and environment, with virtues, vices, blind spots, failings and achievements. Evaluate how you feel about them, and if the verdict is so negative that you want to tear down a statue or rip a name off a building, so be it — but make the judgment a mature one, based on the totality of a life, not a single “gotcha” factoid (as with Smith). Human beings’ creations — books, songs, buildings, artworks — are, by comparison, relatively simple and straightforward; judge them for themselves, not based on their maker’s supposed sins. If those 1930s Smith songs are objectionable, don’t play those songs; don’t deny us her voice singing “God Bless America.” (Or is it possible that what’s really annoying you is the first word of the title?)

No, I’ll keep reading, listening to and admiring whatever I choose to from the vast riches from our past. A world in which we proactively throw tarps over all but the narrowest, most anodyne slices of our history and culture, lest we somehow offend, just doesn’t seem very diverse, does it? Or very free.

Joseph Kimpflen

Tupper Lake

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