The specter of political correctness hangs over the Western world, threatening great art and good writing with ridiculous euphemisms.
Incredibly, “The Mikado” is under fire, accused of being racist to perform and stereotyped in casting. The Gilbert and Sullivan masterpiece has delighted audiences since it was first performed in London’s D’Oyly Carte in 1885. It is rollicking and joyous with nary a hint of Western putdown of the Japanese.
The musical comedy has several wonderful songs and dances but the “Three little maids from school are we” is a marvel, so much so that when watching my video version I play that number back once or even twice.
But, no, references to Japan must be edited out by the hounds of the politically correct. Nanki-Poo, Yum-Yum and Pish-Tush and the rest of the cast are banished from the London stage and set in Renaissance Italy so no one will be offended.
And, yes, Puccini’s fine opera, “Madam Butterfly,” is attacked because the soprano is non-Asian. The New York Metropolitan Opera now calls blackface on white singers taboo because Othello is black (a Moor).
Always seeking to be politically correct, the New York Times now refers to ball boys at tennis matches as “ball people.” Shudders. Ball boys and ball girls would be fine since girls also bring towels and scurry after balls on the court.
A new version of the Bible quotes Mark 8:36: “For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit life?” More shudders. The King James version is so much more graceful, poetic and beautiful: “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
Another updated biblical example, this from 1 Corinthians 13:2: “And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge and I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Here’s the better KJV (1611) of Paul’s letter: “And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing.”
TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL RATNER
An email correspondent, seeing my tribute to the Berrigan brothers in a recent column, suggests I write a similar item about Michael Ratner. Here it is:
Ratner was a human rights activist for four decades. He defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses worldwide.
“He constantly battled for human rights,” the correspondent wrote. “He sued H.W. Bush for the Gulf War. He defended whistleblower Julian Assange. He was a legal proponent of those interned at Guantanamo. He sued G.W. Bush for the Iraq War. He backed recognition of Cuba. He was president of the New York Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Human Rights in Berlin.”
Ratner, who died May 11, was also president of the National Lawyers Guild, hosted a Pacifica Radio show and wrote many books and articles. His major book was “The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld” (defense secretary).
POPE FEINTS AT REFORMS
Pope Francis is a master of feints. He suggests reforms to some moldy church doctrine but always pulls back short of making any change.
Such was the case recently with women serving as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. He told a delegation of 800 superiors of women’s religious orders that he agrees with their proposal to create a commission to study the issue.
Then several days later his spokesman pronounces on Vatican Radio that the pope wasn’t serious about the matter, that he “had no intention of allowing diaconal and priestly ordination for women.”
Another key Vatican official, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, said Francis had tweeted him, declaring that he was upset “by all the ruckus” his comments had caused. “He is thinking about a commission,” Archbishop Becciu said. “Let’s not jump to conclusions.”
In short, the pope talks a good game but never moves the church out of the Dark Ages.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)