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The recent kerfuffle regarding the name of the Washington Redskins brings to mind once again America’s obsession with race.

Yes, the word, redskin, has been used as a term of disparagement by some in our history. But then, so has every other name for a group of people. In addition, what is to say that using that word as a team’s name is not an honor to the people referred to? Football teams don’t typically name themselves after weak, corrupt, or undesirable characters. (Well, there have been teams both football and baseball named the Senators, but nobody’s perfect.) I have little sympathy for football–the sport so named in America, that is–and have no dog in this hunt, but I presume that the team chose the name, Redskins, for its associations with skilled warriors. I fail to see how that puts anyone down–other than the opposing team.

There is more, though. Where is the demand that the Minnesota Vikings change their name? After all, Norse culture was vibrant and varied. Nordic people were farmers, merchants, explorers, and metalsmiths, among much else. They had trading networks in the Middle Ages that spanned the globe. For example, statues of the Buddha have been discovered in Inuit sites in northern Canada. The term, viking, meant an expedition, and did indeed include piracy. But it also involved trade and colonization. Today’s nation of Russia was founded by Norse traders, known as the Rus from a Swedish word for rowing, who set up outposts on the navigable rivers of that land. And then there’s the fact that the horns on the helmet image comes from Wagner, not from the actual Norse people.

But I hear no hue and cry for the Minnesota team to change its name. If we really are concerned with fairness, and if one name derived from a group of people is disparaging, then all such names must be changed. Or better yet, we could recognize that taking on such names honors the group that the name represents and ask people to get over themselves.

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I’ve seen a measure of advice on the subject of whether an author should express opinions about politics, religion, and other such topics as a part of his own blog. The consensus, both from people that I respect and from some that I don’t, is that it’s best for said wordsmith to remain mum about things controversial. We don’t want to alienate potential buyers, now do we?

The trouble is that I have lots of opinions, and I’ve never learned to keep my mouth shut. I blunder or charge right on in to the thick of whatever “discussion” is going on. I love to argue. I love to stir up controversy. But more than that, I’m right (or so I think), and you should be made aware of that (or so I think).

What’s an author to do?

For you, I cannot speak. My own choice is to be myself. I set up this weblog to focus on the writing and reading life, among other related topics, but if you’re interested in my various and numerous opinions on politics, religion, and all those other things that may offend, you can find my articles here.

If you want to read what I write–and more than that, if you want to buy what I write–I hope that it’s because the text is interesting, entertaining, thought-provoking, or whatever other good term you care to use. Who I am as a person really shouldn’t be relevant to the text. Yes, I follow the New Criticism school. The author’s intention is none of the reader’s concern or business. The text must speak for itself.

But if you’re curious about the author, do you want to learn about a bland, milquetoast, and soulless person whose one goal in writing and in life is to be inoffensive?

I didn’t think so. Or, at least, I hope not. To quote Popeye, I yam what I yam. Controversy is one of the things that makes life a pleasure for me. In a related vein, part of the writer’s job is to take on a point of view when writing fiction. When I inhabit a character, I have to be that person, so far as I am able. When I write nonfiction, I have to be myself. Even if you, Dear Reader, dislike one persona, there are others to get to know.

In seeking controversy, I not only have fun. I also learn things that I would never have known otherwise. I learn what others think and feel. That’s good for creating characters, and it’s good for functioning in a democracy. I learn about different ways of seeing a subject. That means that I may end up changing my mind. Therein, alas, lies the reason that some people won’t look at anything that isn’t in support of their own positions. But such people aren’t likely to read what I write, anyway.

You, Dear Reader, of course, are open and willing to explore. You’re curious about the universe. You’re also good looking and wise. (Enough flattery yet?) You are my audience.

I can’t write for anyone else.

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