Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fun Home -- A Legislative Tragicomic

If you haven't yet read Fun Home, the graphic autobiographical novel by Alison Bechtel, you should be happy to know that the waiting list at our library is only 17, since they recently got in a slew more copies.  And even though this is a book we all should read, we owe its current popularity (its copyright is 2006) to our South Carolina legislature.

Just as they claim to be experts on medicine and science in general, this bunch has now weighed in with their expertise in literature.  Mind you, most of them haven't read the book.  It appears that out of 232 pages, someone was shown one of two pages that depicted a sexual act (and not all that graphically I might add).  And that's really all it took for idiots like Larry Grooms and Mike Fair to begin this newest battle in their war on education.  In defense of his position, Fair refers to a state law against "the abominable act of buggery," which a) gives you an idea of how backward and perverse the man is, and b) is proof that he hasn't read the book.

In fact, this is an award-winning piece of literature written by an adult who explores in depth her relationships with her family and particularly with her father.  Issues about belonging, trying to do the right thing, and those coping mechanisms we resort to when we are lost.  So many complex questions of sexuality that we should all think about, and discuss, critically and with sensitivity.  It would be a feather in the cap of South Carolina's legislators to promote the freedom of educators to include this in recommended reading.  And it sure wouldn't hurt anyone if it were required reading.

Because the people who force us to accept prayer in public places and legislate their faux science based on their right-wing interpretation of the bible don't think that professors should have the same right to expose students to different ideas.  I mean, of course, different from the legislators' own.  This controversy and the heavy-handed manner in which the most ignorant of our "representatives" have forced their opinion on our educational institutions should be a red flag.

Recently a bill to introduce the Columbian Mammoth as the state fossil was held up by religious freaks like Kevin Bryant who felt the need to add amendments recognizing God for creating the woolly mammoth.

While such stories are good fun to those who are peeking at us through the bars, being here and knowing that our legislators have so little knowledge and are so comfortable throwing their weight around is tiresome if not plain scary.  Raising children in a state in which our lawmakers want to be sure evolution is taught as part of a debate against intelligent design and in which books from Harry Potter to Fun Home have come under fire is tragic.  The great loss is that the world around us may be growing in insight and understanding while we stumble backwards, clinging fearfully to superstitions and suspicion.

And the fire that was started by the ill-conceived controversy over Fun Home is not just about reading matter.  It is about understanding and tolerance of life styles, recognition of our inter-relatedness, and inspiration through new ideas.  It is about living together and moving forward.  Sadly, our lawmakers are more inclined to attack those who are different or hold different beliefs.  In a very small way, it gives them power.  And makes us all feel that much more insignificant in the context of the world.

The way we here in the South have reacted to this rigidity is to cling even more fiercely to old ideas, become more defensive and hostile to other ideas, and continue to vote into office people who will protect us from the outside.  We do have representatives that speak out against dogma and for that I am thankful.  But more of us need to speak more loudly for reason and tolerance, for critical thinking and insight, for the freedom to seek and share other points of view.  And we need to elect more legislators who are proud to fight for those principles.

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