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The PC Censor

Does political correctness censor your writing? I ask because I woke this morning with the realization that my WiP is purely politically incorrect. Badly so in parts. I thought about dropping the project until, fully awake, I remembered that everything I’ve written is fact, not opinion. It is not fiction based on my experiences as a medic during the Vietnam War, it is a telling of those experiences.

Every writer worth more than their sales knows that truth, however one defines it, is beholden to fact but not to the expectations of public opinion. I have to wonder though, to what extent my writing is influenced by wanting people to like it, to not offend others by a truth that I define.

The nature of the beast is the problem. War is not easily described to people with preconceived notions about how good people should behave towards other good people. Young men and women see the world differently from the way they learned to see it when they are serving in a war hospital eleven thousand miles from home. Perception overwhelms upbringing. The daily smells of blood and iodine disinfectant around open gunshot wounds in dying men cannot be processed the same way as feelings hurt by an offensive remark.

Words, as used here and now, are not meant to convey the reality of there and then. The words of war (hmm, I’ll have to make that a chapter title) are determined by the exhaustion of compassion, the need to wall off the horror, and to cling to a useful sanity in an insane world. Acceptance of reality is required to save lives. The death rate of wounded soldiers in Vietnam was 1.9% because the men and women involved coped with reality.

How they coped is my story. This WiP sat in my mind for years while I searched for words that don’t exist. When I began, I found myself writing from the point of view of the people involved, and with no regard to how that might affect today’s reader wrapped in a comfort blanket of moral smugness. Having thought it through, (thanks for reading this) I’m determined to continue. The soldiers understood that death requires forgiveness. I am not going to apologize for their stories.

+++“I was taking a guy to x-ray in a wheelchair. Shot-up, just off a medivac. We go by the gift shop and he says, ‘Stop! See that nurse? I want to eyeball-fuck her.’ I stopped.” He shrugged.
+++“Who was she?” Captain Kelly asked with humor in her eyes.
+++“Jenkins, from O.B.”
+++“Oh. That didn’t take him long then.” She turned serious. “I understand. You see death, you want life.” Sucking in a breath, she pushed her chair from the table and stood. “Back to it.” He took in the redhead walking away. Kelly was on the dialysis team and regularly watched young men die because their kidneys had been left on the battlefield. When she was on call at night, Captain Kelly was notified by waking the doctor on call that night.
+++– from Code Blue and Little Deaths

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14 thoughts on “The PC Censor

  1. I have to admit, being a hippie child of the sixties, I worry about perception from people who are insulated from the situations and people I write about. People telling me that I’m insulting a whole race of others because I wrote about a bad gypsy. People telling me I can’t write about black people because I’m white.

    The best one of all from a reader? “No mother is as cold and callous as the one you depict.” I tell them they’re lucky they never met mine.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Also: thank you for your service. I’m sure many lived who wouldn’t otherwise because of you and your fellow soldiers. My grandad was a medic in WW2, and I’m proud of him, too.

    Write your book. I’ll read it.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. There are many people who seem unwilling or unable to differentiate between today’s understanding of “woke” and the commonly accepted attitudes of past decades. I believe non-fiction writers have an obligation to educate readers about social evolution by showing the past as it was, not as we might wish it had been. The fact is that social change is a slow process that begins with a dissatisfied class of people who finally reach a level of dissatisfaction that unites them. The next step is to raise the consciousness of the offending class, by either organized peaceful activism or outright revolution.

    For the benefit of readers “wrapped in a comfort blanket of moral smugness”, perhaps “Words of War” could be Chapter 1, the unapologetic explanation you’ve summarized in your fourth paragraph above.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Perry Palin says:

    We spend a lot of energy swinging between writing for editors and publishers and an audience and writing just how and what we want. Does political correctness censor my writing? Well, I once had an editor change one word in a short story, and it was brilliant. My original word injected some unnecessary dissonance, a distraction from the story, and the editor’s pc correction removed the distraction.

    My second short collection was a little edgier by design, with a little violence and a dead guy in one story. The stories were fiction, but based on true stuff I knew. That book was less popular among my target audience than the first.

    I was of an age but not drafted for Vietnam. I only knew one man who was killed, but several who went and came back badly broken, some in body, and some in other ways. The personal horror of that war is full of uncomfortable truths that should be told.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    This is a story that needs to be told. You, having lived through it, need to tell it as it was. No amount of research will provide the details you have at your fingertips. I want to read this.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. In speech and in writing about may happen, political correctness is a good thing that is sometimes overdone (and has an awkward name).  In writing about how people did speak, it should go w/o saying that honest reporting beats whitewashing.  Wanna make the future better than the past?  It may help to understand the past, warts and all.

    Liked by 1 person

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