The Celebrated Nobel Prize-Winning Author & Humanitarian Dies at Age 88
A Brief Comment from Doug Draper
Posted August 6th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
“Authoritarian regimes, dictators, despot are often, but not always, fools. But none are foolish enough to give perceptive, dissident writers free range to publish their judgments or follow their creative instincts. They know they do so at their own peril. They are not stupid enough to abandon control (overt or insidious) over media. Their methods include surveillance, censorship, arrest, even slaughter of those writers informing and disturbing the public.” – Toni Morrison, for the introduction of “Burn This Book”, a collection of essays by prominent writers about the power of the written word and efforts by fascists and other totalitarian thugs to discredit or destroy writing they find threatening to them.
In her words above, Toni Morrison might just have well have included the use of terms like “fake news” and “enemies of the people” and another strategy for assaulting writers and their work. And those two terms, the second of which has origins at least going back to the deadly purges of Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin, are not just the stuff of Trump.
As recently as a few weeks ago, a couple of middle-aged, white Tory businessmen I will not identify by name here, were using them with an air of mockery and disdain for the news media right here in Niagara, within earshot of this journalist and other members of the media. Why is it more often today’s breed of Tories in Canada and Republicans in the United States who are attacking one of the pillars of our freedom and democracy?
Then we have had champions for free expression through the written word like Toni Morrison.
All the more reason why, in the middle of so much disturbing and depressing news about bad deeds and people, we did not need to walk up this August 6th to the news that Toni Morrison, one of the world’s most revered writers and humanitarians of the past 30 or more years, left us this August 5th following a brief illness.
Morrison drew legions of readers and admirers around the world for books like ‘Beloved”, ‘Jazz’ and ‘A Mercy’, and for plays like “Dreaming Emmett” about a 14-year-old African-American, Emmett Till, who was brutally lynched in Mississippi in the mid-1950s for allegedly making advances on a young white woman.
“So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength,” wrote Toni Morrison in one of a series of essays called “Mourning for Whiteness” and published in The New Yorker magazine after Trump won the U.S. presidency in November of 2016.
“These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble,” Morrison continued.
“On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well-educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump … the candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people.
“The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally.
“The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.”
How tragic it is that Toni Morrison has left us now.
Like others who are now gone and who could always be counted on to, in their own ways and through their own venues, to tell it like it is during mad times – people like Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, George Carlin, Pete Seeger, Tom Petty and Leonard Cohen – we need Toni Morrison’s words more than ever.
Damn, damn, damn.
A Brief Footnote – Just by coincidence, if anything is just by coincidence, a documentary film about Toni Morrison, called “Toni Morrison – The Pieces I Am”, featuring Morrison herself as one of the witnesses to her story, was released in select cities across North America late this June. Hopefully it will come to theatres near us.
Here is a trailer for the film that you can watch by clicking on the screen below –
For a remembrance of Toni Morrison’s life and work, posted this August 6th by Time Magazine, click on – https://time.com/5630489/toni-morrison-dies/ .
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“A politician thinks of the next election. a leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders