Should newspapers have trigger warnings? Are we that fragile as a society that we have to be warned that something unpleasant may exist? I can watch hours of violence on prime-time television, but when the nightly news comes on, I have to be warned that the report of an auto accident might be disturbing?
Another author I know used the word Jap in a book about the Philippines in World War II and was chastised. Someone suggested that she should have at least included a trigger warning on the cover about offensive language. A trigger warning? Give me a break. If you are old enough to read a book and need to be warned that something might offend your tiny little senses, stick to Little Dot comic books.
In my next two Tinder Street books, which will include the Philippines in World War II, I will have some characters refer to the Japs. That is history and part of real life. As far as I am concerned, those who are offended can stop reading or don’t buy the book at all. They still make ammunition for Japanese war surplus rifles that says right on the box 6.5 Jap.
In my first week of a decades-long career publishing small town newspapers, I learned that no matter how hard you try to avoid it you are going to make somebody unhappy. So just write what you think is appropriate and let the chips fall where they may because what offends one person may not be the same for the next, and you might be surprised by who is not offended. In Dog’s Run, which is set in a small town in 1951, I use the dreaded N word. A black woman I’ve known for years, who is in her mid-60s said, “I read your book, and there was a word there that I really hate.” I told her I understood, but in that time and place that’s how people of color were referred to by some segments of society. She said, “Oh, do you think I mean Nigger? No, that didn’t bother me at all. I grew up saying that. The word that offended me was twat!”
After reading about the early days of the Dust Bowl in my recent Tinder Street book, The Hard Years, someone messaged me to thank me for not using the term Okies for the farmers who fled the area looking for a better life. Now Okie is offensive? Please don’t tell my mother-in-law, who refers to her family as Dust Bowl Okies because they migrated from Oklahoma to Arizona when she was young. Or Merle Haggard, who made a fortune singing about being an Okie from Muskogee. Or the millions of people from Oklahoma who call themselves Okies.
One of the newspapers I owned was in the White Mountains of Arizona, on the edge of the huge Whiteriver Apache Reservation. I remember an Apache friend of mine laughing about the then PC push to use the term Native American. He said, “You white people worry about the silliest things. I am a proud Indian, and my people were Indians way before the word American was ever on this continent. But it’s okay if it makes white people feel better to use it. You all have enough other things to feel guilty about.”
If anything in this blog was a trigger word that offended you, I won’t apologize, but I might suggest you grow up.
And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.
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Thought For The Day – I think for some people the wheels on the bus don’t go round and round.