Doomed to Repeat

LittleHouse

I haven’t blogged in a really long time—six months—not because there hasn’t been a lot to blog about, but because I’ve been forcing myself to keep my head down and get that darn fourth book of the Gifted Ones series finally finished. And I’m actually close on that, but the PC police finally got to me today. Mass shootings, illegal immigrants, retiring Supreme Court Justices, and God knows, FBI soft-coup plots couldn’t drag me away, but when you start messing with my childhood memories in the form of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’ve gone too far!

Like millions of children the world over, I adored the Little House on the Prairie series, both in book form and on TV. I read the entire series through at least three times. What I, as a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, loved most about the series was the authentic taste of a time I’d never know. I was enthralled by the idea of people literally living off the land, building their house with their own two hands, and dolls made of corn cobs.

My young mind was boggled and shaped by events such as hail storms that destroyed the crops—the family’s sole source of food and income, or the bout of Scarlet Fever that left Laura’s sister permanently blinded because there were no antibiotics to quickly knock it out in a day or two. Reading those books helped me develop an appreciation for the time I lived in–for the grocery store within walking distance, the school bus that saved me from sub-zero temps, and our hot and cold running water and flushing toilets.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House series fascinated us all with its intimate view of a time long past, that is, H-I-S-T-O-R-Y. American history. A realistic, unvarnished, non-white-washed view of American history. And yes, one that is frequently politically incorrect. It appears that Ms. Wilder’s honest recollections of what life was like in the late nineteenth century have now rendered her persona non grata in the literary world. Lines such as this one, describing the Great Plains of the US as a place where “there were no people…only Indians lived there,” can apparently no longer be taken in context.

This week, the narrow-minded “Association for Library Service to Children” decided to remove Ms. Wilder’s name from a prestigious children’s literature award, because of the perceived anti-black and anti-Native American sentiments that are occasionally expressed in her books. I would ask this group, what type of sentiments should a five- or ten-year-old girl have had in the 1870s? The books are truthful representations of the attitudes and experiences of Laura Ingalls’ childhood world. They are autobiographical. She didn’t sugar-coat what she saw and heard and felt, because she wanted to share what her life was really like, not what folks a hundred and fifty years later might have preferred it to be like.

So go ahead, take her name off the award. While you’re at it, might as well take her books off the shelf, too, along with countless other literary gems that honestly reflect the time periods they’re about, like Huckleberry Finn, and most everything Shakespeare wrote, and when you’re done with that, go on and knock down a bunch of statues of guys who weren’t saints but were heroes in their time and place, because, hey, it’s better to make unpleasant history disappear than to study it and learn from it and appreciate it for what it is. Shoot, nobody really likes learning history anyway, right? Let’s just all live in the present moment and keep up with the Kardashians, because that’s like, really super-duper important stuff…

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