Feb 9, 2007

Self-appointed censors call Nobel-Prize winning literature criminal

The most ludicrous news item of the day goes out to Vicki Fyke, the leader of the anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE PAC - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) and the advisor of the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans.

The so-called “LOVE” group started a book banning controversy some two months ago by trying to ban a book from Howell High School called “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.” Since then, they have also tried to ban Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," and an acclaimed memoir written by Richard Wright in 1945, "Black Boy, " as well as the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel "Slaughterhouse Five.”

Local radio station WHMI is reporting Fyke has sent a letter the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, Stephan J. Murphy; Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse claiming the books violate child pornography laws and further makes the ridiculous claim that the books' presence in high school classrooms violates the law by disseminating sexually explicit material to minors. The self-appointed community censor, along with school board member and “LOVE” member Wendy Day, is asking for an investigation and prosecution of any violations of the law. The book burners apparently have also added a new book to the list, “Running with Scissors,” a madhouse memoir of a 13-year-old boy raised by his mother’s psychiatrist by Augusten Burroughs. The book was just turned into a motion picture this past fall starring Alec Baldwin and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few. Gee, maybe that’s why they object to it.

The books have already been approved for the curriculum by a group of teachers from the particular school, a district wide subject-specific content committee, a district wide curriculum and assessment committee, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and finally Superintendent Chuck Breiner. The Board will have final approval at its regular meeting Monday night.

Obviously, these people are not smart enough to come up with that ridiculous idea on their own, and they got it from one of the most well-known and notorious anti-gay hate groups in the state, the American Family Association of Michigan, led by Gary Glenn.

Apparently, Glenn passed on a legal opinion from the national AFA to Fyke that’s forming the basis for the ridiculous witch-hunt.

Parents have always had the opportunity to have their student opt out of any of these selections and read another title, but that has never been good enough for this group of vigilante censors. In addition to helping brand Livingston County with an image of small-minded intolerance that ban books, now they are going to make us the a joke to the rest of the state.

I’m currently in the middle of reading the “The Bluest Eye,” and it has been a great read. I keep waiting to read the alleged objectionable material, but the nearest I have come, so far, is almost 90 pages into the book when they talk about sex between a husband and wife. If that’s supposed to be erotic, stimulating, titillating or pornographic these people are very immature and have led very sheltered lives. It’s simply part of the story.


Anonymous said...

I am a parent and a political conservative...I wish these people would just stop already...My children aren't in high school yt - I think based on what I've heard I think I'd prefer they not read these books, but as I understand, there is an optout policy. However, I don't think that this group is going to give up this fight...short of having all "controversial" books taken out of our high schools, what do they want to happen?

Communications guru said...

Thanks for your input. If these people are conservatives they are giving you a bad name. I have met some conservatives who are lovely people, and even though I disagree with them on many issues, we are usually able to find some common ground. Not so here, and I now distrust the motives of all conservatives.

I do agree with you that nothing is going to satisfy these zealots but banning the books. I would like to make a suggestion. Read the books yourself, and then, if you feel it’s appropriate, let your children read them. I think you will find this is quality literature that will give you a unique perspective you may not have had contact with before. I am currently reading the Bluest Eye now, and it is very good.

virtuousWoman said...

The lunatic fringe is out to roust & alarm the community. People like Vicki Fyke obviously have too much time on their hands. They need to get in touch with humankind and help people for the public good, not stir up trouble where none exists. Society needs more open free thinking epole with different ideas. Limited narrowminded censoring folk like Ms. Fyke are working on an agenda to control and limit us all.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that the 13 year old boy was raped by an older man who sat on his chest and thrust his penis in the child's mouth. Then had anal sex with the child, using hair gel as a lubricant. Oh, don't forget how they looked at poop in the toilet to tell the future. Great stuff.

Communications guru said...

I read “The Bluest Eye,” and there’s no mention of a rape of a 13-year-old. I am on about page 50 of “Black Boy.” Can you tell me what page that is on? As I’m sure you are aware, Black Boy is an autobiography. If Mr. Wright was the one who was raped, witnessed or know someone it happed to, don’t you think that would have a profound effect on his life? If so, how can he possibly leave it out.

Michael Motta said...

One (of many) shortcomings that I often see concerning the "aesthetic" criteria of reactionaries is that they aren't so much aesthetic as they are allegedly moral. There is no ultimate definition of what constitutes art, but one of its facets is that it often raises questions rather than providing answers. Furthermore, instead of being viewed as wholes, artworks are inspected by reactionaries for "micro-instances" of "offensive" material. Should we ban murder mystery books because they contain murders?

An account of the rape of a child, for instance, doesn't endorse said rape any more than an account of Stalin's doings endorses Stalin. It needs to be viewed in the context of the whole, somewhat in the manner of one of the three-prongs in the obscenity test established in the Miller v. California (1973) - "whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value".

If Nobel Prize winning literature (or even somewhat less lofty literary works) should ever be construed to violate laws, then it's the laws that need to be changed, not the literature.