I nearly resigned from my unpaid job as editor of the resident newsletter at The Clare. Why? That old bugaboo, censorship. I finallly decided that it was just the nature of the place I live, or Catholic tradition, or narrow-mindedness, so after I cooled down, I changed my mind. I guess my initial reaction was dictated not by the minor incident itself, but by the fact that the changes (which I didn't make myself) destroyed the spacing of the whole newsletter, leaving some confusing juxtapositions in a few articles.
So what happened? A resident submitted a little short-short story involving a seedy character who used two "bad" words. I don't use or recommend profanity, but I've always thought that it sometimes deserves a place in fiction, within moderation. Seedy characters don't talk like college professors. As a matter of fact, Illinois' former governor illustrated on wiretaps that even public officials--and their wives--sometimes use filthy language, far worse that what was involved here. I've always been against censorship in fiction, ever since I read about the Huckleberry Finn case. I couldn't believe that a book I consider one of the best was taken from library shelves.
Anyway, the present case involved only two words, used one time each. One was indeed offensive, although I think it has lost its original meaning to become just a very negative insult. The other word was so common that I never suspected it would offend anyone. It was just a common word for excrement. Would a killer call anyone a "piece of excrement"? I doubt that he would.
I argued a bit with the building staff (responsible for printing the newsletter), but to no avail. It wasn't a great story anyway, but I believe in residents' right to free speech. What are those in charge trying to protect us from, anyway? I'd never print a profanity-filled story, but two words used in an appropriate fictional context? Come on! Lighten up! We may be old, but we're still able to think for ourselves.