Frankly, my dear, we should give a damn

(Ed. note: For those readers who don't understand the reference in the title, it is a play on the famous line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" said by Rhett Buttler, played by Clark Gable, in "Gone with the Wind,")

So it's come to this. One of our Culture Policemen found "Gone with the Wind" too racist, even too sexist, complained, and got HBO to remove it from its lineup.

Call it another step toward what's becoming Gone with our Culture.

It was a great movie. Drawn from Margaret Mitchell's classic book, it depicted the Old South authentically, warts and all.

The job of a writer is to tell it how it is — or how it was — from his or her personal perspective — and both book and movie did this, truthfully, fearlessly, and grandly.

Back in 1963, Oct 26 to be exact, when there were still some heroic and sane people in the country, President John F. Kennedy spoke at Amherst College, for a gathering to honor the poet Robert Frost, and this is what JFK said: "In democratic society — in it the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and let the chips fall where they may."

Further — "In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves the nation."

I highly recommend reading the entire speech. It was one of the most elegant speeches ever given by a president.

I covered it, and the era, when I wrote the historical novel "The Days of the Bitter End," back when I too was fearless.

Now I don't know. When will they come for me, for what I am writing, and for what I am reading?

Ray Bradbury saw it coming, didn't he? In "Fahrenheit 451" he gave us a world where book-reading was a crime. Books were meant to be burned.

"Firemen" were on patrol to dispose of books and people caught with material so subversive.

Suppose now, on top of that, you are caught watching "Gone with the Wind?"

The process is not entirely new; it has only been accelerated. For years street signs, buildings and statues have been defaced, defamed, renamed to satisfy Community Standards.

Whose Community? Whose Standards?

They decide.

What we've got here, Ladies and Gentlemen, plus the other 57 varieties — what this is, is Mob Culture.

Feel free to quote me on this, if you've got the guts.

Mob Culture has no heart, only mindless instinct, and everything precious is its prey.

Yes, Mob Culture — worse than ever before. Before, books by Twain, Hemingway, Salinger, and some by me, were already on the Forbidden Books Index. Lenny Bruce never had a chance.

What is this — Russia?

Tough to believe, but they had it better over there, or just as bad, but not much worse, from one oppressive climate to another.

Tolstoy wrote and published whatever he wanted even under the authoritarian eyes of the czars. He did get in trouble now and then, but he got it done.

They refused to arrest him, and they never got to muzzle him.

For Pasternak it was different. He had no wealth or aristocratic lineage to fall back on, and he had to sneak "Doctor Zhivago" out of the country because the Soviets were watching.

Even before that book, they had him under surveillance, but, as his wife suffered in his stead, they let him remain free because — because he was a National Treasure.

That is to be revered.

Mob Culture has no reverence, no respect, no use for national treasures, and so it comes never to enrich, only to destroy.

We'd better start catching up to them, while there is still anything left.

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About the Author

Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard's classic international bestselling novel Indecent Proposal, which later became a worldwide hit movie, has been republished to meet readers' demands. His other major works include Compulsive: A Novel, his award-winning post-Holocaust Montreal memoir Escape from Mount Moriah, plus Slot Attendant: A Novel About A Novelist.

Website: www.jackengelhard.com