Banning the First Amendment

 

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

Parents demanded it be banned.

School superintendents placed it in restricted sections of their libraries.

It is the most challenged book four of the past five years, according to the American Library Association (ALA).

“It” is a 32-page illustrated children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, with illustrations by Henry Cole. The book is based upon the real story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins, who had formed a six-year bond at New York City’s Central Park Zoo, and who “adopted” a fertilized egg and raised the chick until she could be on her own.

Gays saw the story as a positive reinforcement of their lifestyle. Riding to rescue America from homosexuality were the biddies against perversion. Gay love is against the Bible, they wailed; the book isn’t suitable for the delicate minds of children, they cried as they pushed libraries and schools to remove it from their shelves or at the very least make it restricted.

The penguins may have been gay—or maybe they weren’t. It’s not unusual for animals to form close bonds with others of their same sex. But the issue is far greater than whether or not the penguins were gay or if the book promoted homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. People have an inherent need to defend their own values, lifestyles, and worldviews by attacking others who have a different set of beliefs. Banning or destroying free speech and the freedom to publish is one of the ways people believe they can protect their own lifestyles.

During the first decade of the 21st century, the most challenged books, according to the ALA, were J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, apparently because some people believe fictionalized witchcraft is a dagger into the soul of organized religion. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was the 10th most challenged in 2010. Perhaps some parents weren’t comfortable with their adolescents having to make a choice between werewolves and vampires.

Among the most challenged books is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the vicious satire about firemen burning books to save humanity. Other books that are consistently among the ALA’s list of most challenged are Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier), Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou), Forever (Judy Blume), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), regarded by most major literary scholars as the finest American novel.

Name a classic, and it’s probably on the list of the most challenged books. Conservatives, especially fundamental religious conservatives, tend to challenge more books. But, challenges aren’t confined to any one political ideology. Liberals are frequently at the forefront of challenging books that may not agree with their own social philosophies. The feminist movement, while giving the nation a better awareness of the rights of women, wanted to ban Playboy and all works that depicted what they believed were unflattering images if women. Liberals have also attacked the works of Joel Chandler Harris (the Br’er Rabbit series), without understanding history, folklore, or the intent of the journalist-author, who was well-regarded as liberal for his era.

Although there are dozens of reasons why people say they want to restrict or ban a book, the one reason that threads its way through all of them is that the book challenges conventional authority or features a character who is perceived to be “different,” who may give readers ideas that many see as “dangerous.”

The belief there are works that are “dangerous” is why governments create and enforce laws that restrict publication. In colonial America, as in almost all countries and territories at that time, the monarchy required every book to be licensed, to be read by a government official or committee to determine if the book was suitable for the people. If so, it received a royal license. If not, it could not be printed.

In 1644, two decades before his epic poem Paradise Lost was published, John Milton wrote a pamphlet, to be distributed to members of Parliament, against a recently-enacted licensing law. In defiance of the law, the pamphlet was published without license. Using Biblical references and pointing out that the Greek and Roman civilizations didn’t license books, Milton argued, “As good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable create [in] God’s image,” he told Parliament, “but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the image of God.” He concluded his pamphlet with a plea, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

A century later, Sir William Blackstone, one of England’s foremost jurists and legal scholars, argued against prior restraint, the right of governments to block publication of any work they found offensive for any reason.

The arguments of Milton and Blackstone became the basis of the foundation of a new country, to be known as the United States of America, and the establishment of the First Amendment.

Every year, at the end of September, the American Library Association sponsors Banned Book Week, and publishes a summary of book challenges. And every year, it is made more obvious that those who want to ban books, sometimes building bonfires and throwing books upon them as did Nazi Germany, fail to understand the principles of why this nation was created.

[Walter Brasch was a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor before becoming a professor of mass communications, with specialties in First Amendment and contemporary social issues. His current book is the mystery novel, Before the First Snow, a look at the 1960s, and how issues unresolved during those years are affecting today’s society.]

 

         

         

 

 

The Cost of Victory

The ultimate decision about what is accepted as right and wrong will be made not by individual human wisdom but by the disappearance of the groups that have adhered to the "wrong" beliefs. - Friedrich August von Hayek

As the President begins his victory laps and the pundicracy begins to fall back in line by touting the recent passage of some historic legislation I think it is important that we remember what the cost of these victories has been and what it will be in the future. So let’s be clear it took 700 billion dollars to get the Republicans to enact legislation that the majority of Americans supported. Is paying the ransom to the kidnappers a victory? I do not want to appear as if I am raining on the President and the Congress’ parade but the reason this legislation got passed was not because the Dems finally realized they had a majority that was due to expire or that the Republicans finally decided that bi-partisanship was worth pursuing, it was because the Dems gave them 700 billion dollars.

What we have seen the last few weeks is how our legislative system was created to work. Legislation was proposed, debated, and voted on. The only problem is that in America for our political process to work it took a bribe of 700 billion dollars. Welcome to the banana republic of America where payoffs and kickbacks are required to do the people’s business. The fact that everyone is so thrilled that the process worked just demonstrates how truly broken our system is. Forgive me but I will not celebrate this process as a victory. It may be a victory for this President but it is not a victory for the American people. The question we must ask is simply this, is any one President’s personal political survival worth giving up our principles? The repeal of DADT is an historic achievement by this President but at what costs?

Some may say that I am being overly dramatic but I don’t think so. By making the concessions that this President and Congress have made they have created two very big problems in the coming years. The first is that they have embolden the wing-nuts to take more hostages and this will be played out following the holidays when they begin debating the budget for the fiscal year of 2011 since no spending bill was passed this year. Anyone who thinks that what has happened recently will ring in this era of compromise from the wing-nuts is in for a rude awakening. Their constant refrain has been and will continue to be that everything must be paid for except tax-cuts for the wealthy. Now that they have delivered on the tax-cuts they will focus their attention on paying for them through cuts to our social safety nets. Funding for health and financial reform will be their first targets followed by our regulatory apparatus.

The second problem will be that by accepting the wing-nut philosophy of tax-cuts the President has now opened the door for negotiations on Medicare and Social Security. Based on how they have negotiated thus far I am not convinced that these programs will remain intact. The wing-nuts have learned that if you say something loud enough and enough times it becomes fact and in this case it will be that we can no longer afford these programs. The wing-nuts don’t want to “pull the plug” on granny they just want to work her to death. Make no mistake about it Social Security and all of the other safety net programs we have come to accept will now be re-litigated and are now negotiable. Were the legislative victories of the last few weeks worth dismantling the last 50 years of liberal values and programs?

Unlike many of my progressive and liberal friends I am not calling for a primary challenge of this President. To me this would be counterproductive and would allow a group that I know does not represent anything I support to come to power and this to me would be foolish. I am not a purist but I refuse to accept that everything is negotiable. There has to be some principles that are not open for debate or negotiation. I refuse to accept this false moral equivalency being promoted by the media and funded by the wealthy. There is no moral equivalency between funding unemployment for those ravaged by the greed of Wall Street and the huge bonuses for those same Wall Streeters. There is no moral equivalency between funding the medical expenses for first responders and tax-cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Our job as progressives and as liberals is not to fall in line with the pundits and the apologist but to remain true to our visions and our principles that we may keep the light burning for those who may lose their way in the darkness. If those who seek our support will not stand for our principles then it is incumbent upon us to find those who will be willing to stand and create our own vehicles for success.

As long as we continue to allow these clowns the cover of moral equivalency then they will continue to take hostages. Our government has to become more representative of the people. We cannot continue to allow Senators from under populated and safe states to undermine the will of the majority of Americans. There is no moral equivalency between someone who represents 100,000 people and someone who represents a 1,000,000 people and by allowing this travesty to continue we will continue to have these obstructionists holding the rest of the country hostage.

Enjoy your victory Mr. President but know that those who were preparing your demise continue to lie in wait with their steely knives and their deceptive smiles.

In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. - Mark Twain

The Disputed Truth

Punching the Frog [Update]

On the trail in South Dakota today Hillary Clinton referenced her campaign with an old Arkansas saying:

You can't tell how far a frog will jump until you punch him.

[Update at end of diary shows what happens when you punch the frog too hard...]

I don't know if she feels punched. I know I would feel that way if I were her.  And in fact I do. Every blow she has taken has landed on me personally. Never felt this way before and probably never will again. But Clinton is Me.

There I have said it. My identity with her is way beyond politics.  It is absolute. She is Everywoman.  And many of us-- millions to be precise-- look at each other now and frown because during this campaign we have lived some version of her  travail across a bed of nails laced with sexist ire.

The list of women who understand this stretches from Maya Angelou to Democrat Pat Schroeder, the most famous woman politician of her era, to Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman candidate for Vice President of the United States,  to Gloria Steinem to Tina Fey to lil ole me.

But is also includes some surprising men too like Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson and Steven Spielberg.

And here is the nation's most famous frog jumping contest. It is hard to predict winners--looks a lot like the Dem campaign to me :)

There's more...

Sorry Obama I can't vote for a Cocaine user [UPDATE]

UPDATE: A few people commented that the bad effects of Cocaine wasn't yet known to the users of that drug back in the time of Grant, Taft , and McKinley a few months ago I would have assumed the very same thing however they knew much more about it than we gave them credit for. Click to see several examples of their knowledge of the negative Cocaine side effects.
A while back while monitoring REDSTATE I noticed a comment that quickly caught my eye concerning Senator Barack Obama's Memoir in which he had admitted trying Cocaine. The individual remarked that even if he were a Democrat he could never vote for an admitted Cocaine user. I thought what a fucking hypocrite this dude is because in all likelihood this little Social Conservative piece of shit had already voted for a Cocaine user twice albeit one that never publicly admitted it although more tellingly President Bush has never denied either. They obviously are in denial about many things over at that mindless Fantasyland known as REDSTATE.
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There's more...

Hemp, Opium and Afghanistan

"A new report (PDF) by the Senlis Council, a U.K. think tank, finds that counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan over the last five years have facilitated insurgency, laying the groundwork for the Taliban to return to power."
Afghanistan Five Years Later: The Return of the Taliban Spring/Summer 2006 (AFYL). AFYL

The report continues:

"Without alternative means of livelihood, farmers are unable to give up growing poppy."

There's more...

Diaries

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