Moser's Modest Proposal

RECEIVED Wed., Aug. 13, 2008

Dear Editor,
    In following the recent uproar regarding Stephen Moser's columns about bicycle riders [“After a Fashion”], I'm reminded of an essay by one Jonathan Swift, easily recalled from English literature, "A Modest Proposal," penned in 1729. In it, Swift recommended solving Ireland's unfortunate famine troubles by encouraging the Irish to eat their children. There may well have been some uproar after that was published as well, such an unthinkable suggestion as it was, possibly even dangerous. It should be noted, however, that there was never a wave of infant cannibalism in Ireland after 1729. On the other hand, Swift's writing has held up rather well over the centuries, recognized for what it is – satire. What a pity that some must take everything so literally and have so little appreciation for satire, irony, and parody that they call for censorship when a writer uses those classic forms. Surely Moser's purpose in writing the bicycle bit likely differed from Swift's objective, but that's irrelevant. Sometimes, darker humor can be the most profound of all, and I suspect that much of what Moser writes will find its place. What a shame that so little is known of literature that satire isn't appreciated and so little is known about government that censorship is thought reasonable.
Mary English Morrison
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