The question of censorship came up last week. As moderator of La Cruz Writers’ Group, it is my responsibility to direct comments and maintain a safe environment for our writers. Occasionally, I’ve failed in my duties.
Last week an eloquent author told me he planned to read a politically sensitive poem. He asked, “Was that OK?”
Knowing my preference for a nice peaceful atmosphere, Paul gave me plenty of time to think about reading his piece “The United States of Us.” It was written to provoke.
We both recalled the spirited discussion over using the word Jew in his poem, “A Very Jewish Christmas.”
I thought, “What is more important: peace or censorship?”
Consumed with self-doubt, I reached out to two seasoned members and asked their opinion. One counseled me to exam the founding principles of LCWG and check my gut. The other urged freedom of speech.
After much contemplation, the an inner truth spoke to me, “Freedom of speech without censorship.”
My commitment scared me. My breath slowed; my heart pounded. Given my past failures, I questioned my ability to manage a lively debate. My worse fear? Create a permanently divided group of writers.
I asked Rick, my husband and trusted soul mate, to give up his Saturday and join our group. I needed his moral support.
Friday afternoon, I wrote ‘a note to self’ and examined my beliefs. Facing my fears gave way to survival-level strength. I told Rick I would facilitate the group alone.
Saturday morning our writers were seated in a circle. Podium and microphone in place. After introductions, I said, “I have a statement I need to make.”
From my comfy chair, I looked up from my notes. All eyes were fixed on me. I began in a quite voice, “The written word has changed the course of history.”
I drew a breath of courage and continued, “This week I had to decide whether or not to censor a piece of writing. I’m here to say, there will be no censorship or pre-approval for any story read during our gatherings.
“The subject matter may be offensive. Our beliefs may be challenged. It is the responsibility of each and everyone of us to express our opinion without condemnation.
“There is no room for personal criticism of anyone in the room, the subject matter or the author.
“It is our individual responsibility to focus on the writing: structure, character development, and pacing.”
The group drew a collective breath and expressed unanimous approval through applause and words of appreciation.
Paul read “The United States of Us.” His story inspired, provoked and forced us to question. A lively discussion followed. The exchange was everything our group stands for: Open dialog, exchange of ideas, informative and thought provoking.
I am grateful to our member for kicking off the intense discussion following, “A Very Jewish Christmas.”
I’m grateful I was forced to decide between censorship and peace.
Most of all, “I’m grateful our La Cruz Writers’ Group and the wealth of experience each individual brings to our gatherings.
We are united in willingness to listen and freedom of speech.
A Very Jewish Christmas
A very Jewish Christmas to you!
For there wouldn’t be a Christmas
If there hadn’t been a Jew.
It starts with a Jewish couple – that part we all knew.
A Jewish carpenter and his young bride
Set out from Nazareth on a burro
Being expectant, only she would ride —
To a barn; the planning wasn’t thorough.
Then came the baby, warmed by donkey breath,
He screamed and howled when he was born,
They laid him in a manger — not the best —
No one got much sleep before the morn.
The boy grew to start a new religion,
In what we call Judeo-Christian tradition.
He joined two cultures, didn’t he?
An achievement for a young Jew on a mission.
So let us all recall this Christmas,
What it means to me and you.
There wouldn’t be a Christmas
If there hadn’t been a Jew!