Allow me, in advance, to apologize for the length of this post – I tend to get wordy when I get all fired up.
I despise censorship in any fuckin’ form. Any. I think protestations on behalf of uptight parents, politicians, school board members, city councilors, et. al. that “We must protect the children” are weak and are served up only to deflect attention from the poles (or polls) that are firmly lodged up their asses.
Now, of course, I may be overreacting to two stories I recently came across. If I am, allow me to apologize here and now for getting into a lather; for getting my knickers in a knot; a bee in my bonnet; or any other witty cliche that describes my agitation. I don’t think I am though.
The first came to my attention the other day on MSNBC.com. The story details some controversy in Maryland regarding a book entitled The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. The young adult novel has been widely praised and has received several honors including the Michael L. Printz Honor Book silver medal from the Young Adult Library Services Association. It’s a frank depiction of a young (15 years old) girl’s “struggle over whether and when to lose her virginity and the disgust she feels with her own overweight body.” It’s not a very rosy picture – it’s far from Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best. Today, there’s a follow-up story on MSNBC.com about the Carroll County superintendent, Charles I. Ecker, reconsidering the ban he imposed a couple of months ago. In the article he praises the book very highly and even goes on to say that “If I had the authority, I’d make every parent read it because it’s about family relations, about how parents treat a child that may not be the way they think they should be.” Well, holy fuckin’ shit, Batman! So, what caused him to ban it you ask? It has some foul language (oops, maybe I’ll get banned) and “some sexual things in it that (he) thought was unfortunate.” Really? Where’s my sarcasm tag when I need it. But, let’s get to the heart of it – he overturned a committee that voted to accept the book because a parent…ONE…challenged the book’s language and sexual themes. I will place money right now that that parent’s child(ren) will end up on a therapist’s couch. Now, there is a kicker and it comes from Mr. Ecker. He says, “he was in a quandary. He believes in the First Amendment, he said, and “it’s a wonderful message,” but it is also a difficult one that some pupils may not be ready for.” Is it just me, or is he making himself the parent of the entire district? And, can you really say, in all honesty you believe in the First Amendment and then ban a book? Also on MSNBC.com is a poll (unscientific, of course) that shows (unfortunately) that of 282 respondents (at time of writing) only 45%, less than half, believe that books of this nature should be allowed in public schools. 55% believe either the books should be available elsewhere or it all depends on the book. Reason #2,458,965 for the fall of Western Civilization.
Ok, parents, here’s the deal. You, my friends, are the parent. It is your responsibility, and yours alone, to bring up your children and only your children. If you find something objectionable, fine, keep it away from your child. But do not…DO NOT…believe that that gives you the right to impose your values on me and keep it from mine. That’s not how this all works.
Ok – second story that really pissed me off. Last Friday (December 16) three senators (Joe Lieberman (D, CT), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D, NY) and Evan Bayh (D, IL)) introduced legislation “that will codify the (videogame) industry’s voluntary ratings system.” Games will be assigned letters (“EC” – appropriate for early childhood to “AO” – adults only) and any retailer that sells games rated mature or adults only to children under 17 could face fines of up to $5,000. Good to see that everything in the country is running smoothly that these aspiring presidential candidates have the time to introduce this ridiculous legislation. First Amendment anyone? Bueller? Bueller? I must say, however, that there are some voices of reason out there in the wilderness. In 2001, “in overturning an Indianapolis statute, Judge Richard A. Posner said the graphic content in videogames, while coarse to many, deserves the same protection as gruesome passages in such literary classics as “The Odyssey,” “The Divine Comedy” and “War and Peace.” (Emphasis mine) He continues:
“Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture,” Judge Posner wrote. “To shield children right up until the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to deal with the world as we know it.”
I just find it disgusting and insulting that individuals, elected or not, have it in their heads that they are the arbiters of what you and I can read, play, listen to (PMRC anyone?) or watch. Like Chag said a couple of weeks ago, “I Don’t Need The Government To Babysit My Children.”