Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thank You, Betty Kirby

I stood up against censorship when I was 17 to my high school principal over the content of a fictional story written for Belles Lettres, our annual literary publication.

My voice — internally and externally — was shaking, and I didn't think my fellow editors and I even thought we'd be able to include our response statement, even though we had the full support of our adviser.

Our little fuck-you statement, was in retrospect, much — much — milder than that hypenated adjective I just used to describe it. (Well of course it was. We couldn't go getting our censorship response censored.) It simply said, at the top of an otherwise blank page:

"The Belle Lettres staff 
would like to say everything good 
there is to say about censorship:"

In fact, just a few years later, once I'd entered The Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, I found myself embarrassed for its mildness. My 20-year-old self was full of I'm-gonna-change-the-world arrogance, and rightfully so. My 17-year-old self had spent a lifetime as an Army brat, 12 years in the DoD education system and was just grateful to be finally doing something against the rules that would bring her praise and not punishment. And rightfully so.

It wouldn't have surprised either version of the younger me that at 43, I'd still be proud of my instincts and responsiveness. Nor that I would have the freedom that I do to express myself in myriad public ways. Whether it turned out to be a column in The Chicago Tribune, or my own little nation that I've staked out on the Internet is irrelevant. This is America. My father fought to ensure we'd all have that freedom.

It would have shocked the hell out both of them, however, that at 43, I'd still be faced with censorship.

And it should shock you, too. Please check out the facts, and please vote.

Thank you. From every single one of me.

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