David James Duncan
WORDS ABOUT WORDS
There is virtually nothing a would-be censor can do to guarantee the purity of language, because it is not just words that render language impure. Even "dirty" words tend to be morally neutral until placed in a context and it is the individual human imagination, more than individual words, that gives a context its moral or immoral twist...The human imagination was designed (by its Designer, if you like) to make rapid-fire, free-form, often-preposterous connections between shapes, words, colors, ideas, desires, sounds. This is its weakness, but also its wondrous strength. The nature of the imagination itself is, at bottom, why organized censorship never works. And it is also why every ferociously determined censorship effort sooner or later escalates into fascistic political agendas, burnings at the stake, dunking-chairs, gulags, pogroms and other literal forms of purge. Obviously, the only fail-safe way to eliminate impurities from human tongues, minds and cultures is to eliminate human life itself.
David James Duncan, American novelist, Los Angeles Times, January 23, 1994
Posted on November 15, 1999 at 7:33 AM