Detroitteach's Blog

Mark Twain’s Ghost | August 11, 2010

Hi! Welcome to my new BLOG about teaching in Detroit, Michigan. I’m going to start by quoting an article by Mark Twain, published post-humously in the New Yorker. He says basically that only dead people have free speech. So in order to be truthful, will I have to hide behind an assumed identity?

………”exercising free speech from the grave. Its occupant has one privilege which is not exercised by any living person: free speech. The living man is not really without this privilege-strictly speaking-but as he possess it merely as an empty formality, and knows better than to make use of it, it cannot be seriously regarded as an actual possession. As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. There is not one individual who is not the possessor of dear and cherished unpopular convictions which common wisdom forbids him to utter. When an entirely new and untried political project is sprung upon the people, they are startled, anxious, timid, and for a time they are mute, reserved, noncommittal. Free speech is the privilege of the dead, the monopoly of the dead. They can speak their honest minds without offending. We may disapprove of what they say, but we do not insult them, we do not revile them, as knowing they cannot now defend themselves. If they should speak, it would be found that in matters of opinion no departed person was exactly what he had passed for in life. They would realize, deep down, that they, and whole nations along with them, are not really what they seem to be-and never can be.”

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