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Mark Leon Goldberg has just published a provocative and important snippet in the latest American Prospect, which I am reprinting in its entirety with permission.
Goldberg (who used to be just ‘Mark Goldberg’ when he was my brilliant research assistant but now has become ‘Mark Leon Goldberg’ as his fame advances) exposes the censorship obsessions of Alabama State Senator Gerald Allen who not only wants to block same-sex marriages (something unfortunately not all that controversial) but wants to bury all extant copies of The Color Purple and Cat on a Hat Tin Roof.
This kind of intolerant bigotry and anti-intellectualism anywhere in America is dangerous and reminds one of Nazi book-burnings or Mao’s horrifying cultural revolution.
Unlike Teresa Heinz-Kerry who didn’t remember (for a moment) that George W. Bush’s wife was a librarian, loves books, and allegedly loves knowledge — I do. Bush should embrace his wife’s love of culture and tell his base that they are undermining their nation and are not real Americans if they persist with their censorship obsessions.
Diane Ravitch, one of my board members and a prominent innovator and policy thinker in education, wrote one of the most important books on the pervasive censorship that already exists in America’s educational ecosystem. It is called The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn.
Here is Mark Leon Goldberg’s excellent snippet today:
American Prospect
Burying Tennessee by Mark Leon Goldberg
No one doubts Alabama state Representative Gerald Allen’s sincerity when he says he wants to protect Americans from an insidious homosexual plot to redesign our nation’s social fabric. One year ago, in February 2004, when constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage were just becoming trendy, Allen beat his colleagues in the Statehouse to the punch and introduced a bill that would amend the Alabama Constitution to define marriage as “a unique relationship between a man and a woman.”
Allen’s bill is pending committee action in Alabama’s lower house. Clearly emboldened, however, by the success of anti-gay-marriage initiatives on last November’s ballots, Allen has prefiled a new bill for the 2005 legislative session, beginning February 1, that would prohibit the use of public funds for “the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.”
Under Allen’s bill, such works as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Color Purple would fall under the embargo. After all, they contain protagonists who are either gay or of a somewhat ambiguous sexuality. On the December 3 Hannity & Colmes show, Allen warned that these two particular works were dangerous precisely because they blur the boundaries of acceptable behavior. “We have got to draw the line somewhere,” Allen averred, “because the family and marriages — it’s coming apart.”
For Allen, merely banning these books doesn’t deliver the kick he’s after. What he’d really like to do, he said, would be to “dig a big hole, dump them in, and bury them.”
Of course, Tennessee Williams isn’t the only writer who blurred sexual boundaries. If Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is suggestive, how about that Old Testament? After all, 1 Samuel 18:1-4 notes rather coyly that David and Jonathan were more than just, ahem, friends. Sayeth the text: “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
So if you see some guy in Alabama burying 1 Samuel, the smart money says it’s Gerald Allen.
Thanks for the good piece, Mark.
— Steve Clemons
This and this just sent in from newly appointed legal advisor to The Washington Note, Brian Greer, which hits some of the same buttons as Goldberg’s article above in the battle over language as American culture finds itself increasingly hijacked by anti-intellectual and intolerant religious zealots.
— Steve Clemons