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The Tyranny of the Sensitive Ones

By Bailey Herrington

Sign in a Manatee County Florida Public School: “Books Are NOT For Student Use!”

Books are NOT for Student Use?? According to the story in the February 7, 2023 issue of The New Yorker, a group called “Community Patriots” bullied the school administration to cover the bookshelves, because they insist that since they don’t read books, nobody should read books.

But it’s not only wacky sub-groups who believe their cultural attitude is the only one that is morally correct. Individual parents have succeeded in banning books and events they deem harmful to their precious, sensitive, offspring.

OK, so you don’t want your kid to read Huckleberry Finn, or To Kill A Mockingbird. Fine. That’s your prerogative. But you have no right to demand that all kids must not read these masterpieces of American literature.

So you don’t want your bundle of sensitivities to lay eyes on a photograph of Michelangelo’s “David.” Fine. Keep them home that day, or excuse them from art class. But you do not have the right to prevent others from experiencing this world-renowned art treasure.

The tyranny of the sensitive ones has given rise to a new industry that protects us from the original words of literary giants such as Agatha Christie (she used the word “Nubians” !! And she said Hercule Poirot was “a Jew.” Horrors! Roald Dahl, that evildoer, called one of his characters . . . wait for it . . .”fat.” I know, that enraged me, too.

Writers of fiction and publishing houses (Shame on you, Harper Collins) who fear that calling a spade a spade instead of a digging implement, may cause a sensitive reader to break out in hives, now can hire the services of firms who, for a substantial fee, will rewrite the insensitivities and biases that have taken over their souls.

Here’s a quote from one firm’s website: “Cultural Accuracy Editing (also known as Sensitivity, Authenticity, Diversity, or Targeted Expert Reading) involves vetting a manuscript for issues of (mis)representation, biases, stereotypes, and a range of other factors that may be deemed harmful or antagonistic to a person or population group.

“Many publishers now seek these critical analyses for manuscripts in an effort to release books that are culturally accurate. This field of work arose in response to events and grassroots movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter as the public demands fair and accurate representation, justice, and equity for readers from diverse backgrounds and better ethics in the publishing industry.”

While shaving, this brilliant thought came to me: I must apply “Targeted Sensitivity methods to the sport of baseball.

To avoid using words that may offend some people, Targeted Sensitivity terminology will replace familiar baseball lingo. One such term already is in use. “Pickoff attempt” has been replaced with”Disengagement.”

I have replaced the baseball term “strike,” which upsets corporate executives, with “A missed opportunity for a player holding a tapered wooden object.”

A “Hit” will be replaced with “A player plying a tapered wooden object propels a quaintly-lace leather sphere in such manner that other players wearing leather coverings on one hand cannot retrieve said sphere before the player, who has discarded his tapered wooden object on the ground, runs and touches one or more canvas-covered squares of sand.”

The culturally inappropriate words“Hitter” and “Batter” will become “a player holding a tapered wooden object in both hands waiting the arrival of a quaintly-laced leather sphere.”

A “foul” ball will become “a misdirected quaintly-laced leather sphere.”

I will do away with the mysogynistic term“Bull Pen.” From now on, oh sensitive fans, it will be the “Bovine Warm-up Area.”

Of course, my Targeted Sensitivity antennae spotted “Steal” and “Stealing a base.” These words can be the motivation for a “maximally sensitive” individual to embark on a life of crime. Instead of “stealing a base,” the descriptor will be, “a player standing near one square of canvas-covered sand successfully advances to the next square of canvas-covered sand during the propulsion of a quaintly-laced leather sphere without the player holding the tapered wooden object making contact with the quaintly-laced leather sphere.”

Just think how my Targeted Sensitivity methods will benefit the sport of football!

And finally, I offer this quote from Natasha Anderson, a British journalist from her article, Sensitivity Readers are the New Literary Gatekeepers:

“The rise of sensitivity readers seems to reflect an obsession with policing language in service of a hypothetical person who is not only maximally sensitive but also not very smart. . . sensitivity reading seems part of a larger, insidious trend in the arts, one that stigmatizes imagination, and taken to its logical conclusion, makes fiction itself categorically impossible.”

Coming soon! The first chapter of my soon to be published David Elliott mystery, Dead To Rights, published by Gatekeeper Press. Watch this space!

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