I find it odd that you would publish in the same issue the piece “For Freedom” by Judy Hogan, which comes out for the moral role of the artist in a free society, and the pieces “Free Kill” by William Gaither and the excerpt from The Magus by John Fowles. It is true, of course, that all three concern the word “freedom.” But compare:
Fowles speaks of addressing a guerilla (whom he is about to shoot?) and seeing him strain to pronounce the word freedom (he can’t; his tongue has been cut out). Fowles goes on to extoll the man’s alleged “freedom to do all” — “disembowel peasant girls and castrate with wire cutters” — presumably before he shoots him. I find the entire passage nauseating. Out of context, we can know nothing about the poor creature Fowles depicts — except Fowles’ own rotten vision of “freedom” implanted on the psyche of a man without a tongue, crying out and awaiting execution.
“Free Kill” proposes one free murder for everyone born. I hardly know how to comment except to quote from Hogan’s piece, where she refers us to lines from poet Norm Moser:
Yes, I mourn the destruction of even one
soul . . .
Particularly since you represent the most enlightened intellectual sector of a state not noted for its humanity (I think of your Death Rows, overloaded with poor Blacks and whites awaiting the throw of a switch; I think of your “Clockwork Orange” prisoner rehabilitation facilities, long in the works), I would think you would feel it incumbent upon yourselves to define freedom as something which opposes cruel torture and death, and does not condone it.
I walked the streets of Raleigh twice in the last three years, past the women’s prison, past the hooded klansmen standing at the side roads talking to their friends the state police. I do not think I can be convinced that the possibility of a facism in North Carolina is a mirage.
It is your place in particular to represent a progressive force, an enlightened force. Or else you have lost touch with the truth; as poet Gene Fowler puts it, quoted once again by Judy:
We have forgotten
the shape & cry of our bellies.
There are times when I think editors should feel shame for what they have printed and learn from the mistake. I know I have. I’m afraid I hope that you might also.
You misunderstand Bill Gaither, John Fowles, and this magazine.
First, Bill Gaither. His satire on capital punishment was meant to be taken as seriously as Nixon’s version of Watergate. Did you honestly believe we were proposing legalized murder? Only of the self-serious, John, by their own humorless hand.
The John Fowles quote, out of context, is perhaps misleading: the guerilla did not disembowel anyone. But that doesn’t matter. Fowles is talking about the freedom that transcends human morality, the freedom that is the very ground of Being. “Freedom” does not oppose cruel torture and death — otherwise men would not be free to punish and kill. A metaphysical, not a political, abstraction; thus one which you might choose not to take seriously. But if so, do not turn it to your own ends. The promiscuous use of words like “freedom” to defend a way of thinking — no matter how democratic or moral or spiritual — frightens me more than hooded Klansmen, Clockwork Orange prisons, or Massachusetts intellectuals gunning for their Southern brothers.