Sunday, June 20, 2004

Political Correctness Scalps Itself

It could only be done this well in Massachusetts.

The year 2004 is the 300th anniversary of what less sensitive times commonly referred to as the “Deerfield Massacre”. This was a raid during Queen Anne's War in which over 50 colonists were killed, and about 150 captured and taken on a forced march to Canada.

This story in the Sunday Globe (which carefully avoids using the judgemental term in the paragraph above) tells how the local historical society has covered some stone tablets from the 19th century which contain text deemed too coarse for our highly sensitive 21st century ears. References to “savages” and “Negro servants” are two examples. The offensive text is now safely behind hanging flaps of cloth which have been designed to match the stone tablets, but contain revised descriptions that use current terms for Native American tribes and are more nuanced. Only those museum visitors who risk their sensitive souls and lift the cloth will be exposed to the offensive 19th century language on the stone tablets underneath. The example given in the article is of an original text describing a young woman captured by the tribe formerly known as Mohawks:

'Mary, adopted by an Indian, was named Walahowey. She married a savage, and became one.'
And the revised text:

She married a Kanien'kehaka and adopted the culture, customs and language of her new community in Kahnawake.'
The latter reading is not offensive to Native Americans. But what about feminist sensibilities? Are we to believe that such girls and young women of 1704 were not victims of trafficking, but instead simply flexible enough to adopt the culture customs and language of those who had, adopted them? I hope no feminists read this article too carefully, lest the museum be forced to hang yet another flap to avoid yet another flap, and stay out in front of the culture, language, and customs of the Pioneer Valley in the 21st century.

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