A response to The Indian-Oz Connection:
I found your site looking up Steve Gerber and have been reading it with much interest. You make a lot of good points, but I have to take issue with your Baum article. When Baum wrote his articles, the oldest of his four children was 8. Also at this time, the town of Aberdeen was under constant threat of Indian attack. What Baum published were the opinions of a frightened young family man.
I also take issue with a falsehood you put forth in your article:
<<(quoting Eric Gjovaag)>> And there are a few passages in some of his books that are not acceptible to many people today because of the depiction of certain ethnic groups. <<
A few? So far Baum is batting 1.000. *Every* mention of minorities in his writing is stereotypical and prejudiced.>> [emphasis yours]
This is extraordinarily easy to disprove. One need only cite _The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus_, "The Mating Day," "The Tiger's Eye," "The Enchanted Buffalo," and probably others. But one is enough to make your argument a false one. "The Enchanted Buffalo" contains a brief, respectful mention of Native Americans and is the only one of these not available online, though the story is in print in several collections as well as in _Animal Fairy Tales_.
Perhaps more pertinent is a passage in _The Lost Princess of Oz_, chapter 6:
But the Lion stretched himself and yawned, saying quietly: "Were we all like the Sawhorse we would all be Sawhorses, which would be too many of the kind; were we all like Hank, we would be a herd of mules; if like Toto, we would be a pack of dogs; should we all become the shape of the Woozy, he would no longer be remarkable for his unusual appearance. Finally, were you all like me, I would consider you so common that I would not care to associate with you. To be individual, my friends, to be different from others, is the only way to become distinguished from the common herd. Let us be glad, therefore, that we differ from one another in form and in disposition. Variety is the spice of life and we are various enough to enjoy one another's society; so let us be content."
Sounds like Baum matured a great deal between 1891 and 1916.
Scott Andrew Hutchins
>> You make a lot of good points, but I have to take issue with your Baum article. When Baum wrote his articles, the oldest of his four children was 8. Also at this time, the town of Aberdeen was under constant threat of Indian attack. What Baum published were the opinions of a frightened young family man. <<
Aberdeen was under threat of Indian attack because the Indians were under threat of having their culture, livelihood, and existence wiped out. The Indians' response was eminently understandable. They were the victims, not the citizens of Aberdeen.
Baum's editorials sounded sober and "mature" to me, not frightened or unthinking. But what if he was frightened? Don't genocide and other forms of racism ultimately stem from fear?
So Baum advocated genocide for the same reasons people always advocate genocide—because they're afraid someone will take something from them. Hitler thought the Jews were engaged in some sort of economic or religious conspiracy to dominate Germany, too. Are these valid reasons for genocide?
Curiously, someone else argued that Baum's editorials were a satire on the military's excesses (a view Robert Venables dismissed). You both think the editorials were tolerable—but for radically different reasons. Hmm.
>> So far Baum is batting 1.000. *Every* mention of minorities in his writing is stereotypical and prejudiced. [emphasis yours]
This is extraordinarily easy to disprove. <<
When I wrote "So far...," I meant so far in Gjovaag's defense. Every mention of minorities Gjovaag gave as evidence in Baum's writing is stereotypical and prejudiced. Baum was batting 1.000 as far as Gjovaag's defense was concerned.
If Gjovaag wanted to defend Baum's portrayal of minorities, the obvious recourse was to provide examples of positive minority portrayals. Gjovaag didn't do that. Hence my claim that Baum was batting 1.000 so far.
I'll update the posting to make that clear. Thanks for the idea.
>> One need only cite _The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus_, "The Mating Day," "The Tiger's Eye," "The Enchanted Buffalo," and probably others. <<
A citation isn't enough to disprove the point unless both parties know the cited work. A quote is the real clincher. Do you have any quotes you'd like to share?
>> But one is enough to make your argument a false one. <<
Very true, in theory. It would be true in reality if 1) you quoted something that disproved my argument and 2) my argument wasn't limited to what Gjovaag had presented so far.
>> "The Enchanted Buffalo" contains a brief, respectful mention of Native Americans and is the only one of these not available online, though the story is in print in several collections as well as in _Animal Fairy Tales_. <<
I believe it isn't online, since I searched an archive of Baum's work for the word "Indian." And people think I don't research these things...!
I'd have to see that quote before I decided it was respectful. Even positive stereotypes such as the "noble savage" are still stereotypes. Take the idea of calling Indians "warriors," for instance—as schools with mascots do. That portrays Indians in an allegedly positive, but actually one-dimensional, light. It's respectful only if you think being a one-dimensional warrior is better than being a three-dimensional person.
Note: This correspondent eventually put "The Enchanted Buffalo" online, leading to the following posting:
Pseudo-Indian story "The Enchanted Buffalo" doesn't prove Baum appreciated minorities.
Appreciation of variety = lack of prejudice?
>> Perhaps more pertinent is a passage in _The Lost Princess of Oz_, chapter 6: <<
More pertinent to me is Baum's portrayal of the only group of disenfranchised people he portrayed—namely, women. Women were either naive and angelic girls (Dorothy), witches (literally and figuratively), proto-femi-Nazis (General Jinjur), or old hags (Mombi). The only major mature woman may have been Ozma—and she was raised as a boy, so that explains her normal character.
That's Baum's diversity for you—a diverse set of stereotypes. There aren't a whole lot of female characters in his Oz books who challenge conventionality. You'll probably say Baum was a man of his times, and I'll respond, "Jane Austen. William Shakespeare. The Greeks. All predated Baum; all wrote sophisticated portrayals of women."
>> Sounds like Baum matured a great deal between 1891 and 1916. <<
It's a lot easier to be openminded about sawhorses and woozies than it is to be about "coonskins" and "redskins." The most devout Christians were kind to their wives, children, and dogs while whipping their slaves and dispossessing the Indians. Showing kindness or appreciating individuals doesn't prove you're unprejudiced against real minorities. It only proves you're capable of double-think.
Most bigots aren't "evil" or bigoted in every aspect of their lives. They're what we call "normal," which is all the more frightening. They're blind to their own hypocrisy, their inability to live up to their Christian or American ideals.
Show me actual quotes about actual minorities, and then we can discuss whether and how much Baum's views matured. I look forward to it.
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