Two different takes on cancel culture caught my eye on the same day.
Should we cancel everybody? I get the impulse to cancel people because it’s a powerful, sweeping gesture. We can take often racist, often problematic writers off our syllabus and feel that we’ve reclaimed a space for someone else. My concern is that I don’t think that stops Whitman from appearing on the desks of school children for the next hundred years. Rather than elimination, we should focus on being more thorough. Instead of saying “this is the gold standard” we should say, “this work revolutionized American letters in some ways, but there are other places where the thinking fell apart.” Whitman created an incredible poetic line according to the King James Bible in an attempt to preserve the union side by side with Abraham Lincoln. Incredible! Whitman was also racist. We can hold those two truths simultaneously.
I touched on this in my newsletter this week, but here’s what: There’s actually enough good shit in the world that you don’t really need to wrestle with this question 99% of the time.
I’m interested in how folks weigh different accusations along the spectrum of merely offensive to outright illegal/abusive. I tend to be more of a scorched-earth person myself, but I do appreciate Ocean Vuong’s nuanced take.