Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Wednesday, January 28, 1970.
Millie is in her early forties; she has a pinched nose that squints when she is offended; and in the best traditions of middle-class America, she displays the American flag on the side vent of her car. She doesn’t think too much about Vietnam, but she figures that if we started it, we should finish it.
Millie does think about obscenity though; in fact she has organized a neighborhood club that meet every other Monday. On the subject of obscenity, Millie definitely thinks something should be done.
Millie has read the Supreme Court opinion on the subject. She has hear that books, materials, films and other things cannot be labeled as obscene merely because certain words or certain human actions are portrayed; for something to be suppressed as obscene it must be totally without any socially redeeming value.
Millie knows also the obscenity is defined as that which is offensive to decency. Knowing those facts and understanding them. However. Are very distinct things. And, of course, Millie realizes that America is a free country where free expression is respected.
Millie used to blush the braces right off her teeth when she was a little girl, whenever she heard someone utter a “foul” word. And ever since then she has been hotfooting it around town trying to get bookstores to send back certain types of books. She says words are obscene if they describe certain kinds of human actions or if they describe certain types of things.
Millie doesn’t think wars are obscene, even though wars involve the taking of human lives; and what could be more against decency than the brutal deaths of human beings? Millie moved last year when a black family moved into her neighborhood; she didn’t think that was obscene, even though it is obviously indecent to be inhumane. Of course, Millie thought the family was “all right”, it was just that she had to protect her property values. However, it is never all right to use a particular word in a story in order to protect the story’s realism.
Although I don’t understand this distinction, Millie can certainly explain it. As for the socially redeeming value requirement, Millie thinks that any writer who would be so low as to write a certain type of word simply can’t tell a good story; a prior the book is without any redeeming quality.
Also some writers that Millie has run across in her extensive investigation of the local bookstores have minds that are “in the gutter”. These writers are writing about the gutter, so where else should their minds be?
The language used may not be the kind of language that Millie cares to hear in casual conversation; he is involved with the telling of a story. Is’t it a fact that stories are supposed to relate, as close as possible, to reality?
The really heavy thing about Millie’s contention, though, is that she is forcing the values of her neighborhood club onto the rest of the citizenry. She has an American flag on her car; but she refuses to be tolerant of differing value systems. And doesn’t that make her out as a very real hypocrite?
You do not have to look very far to find Millie either; she is very near. Perhaps she is in a position to sanction your writing; perhaps she already has.