Tag Archives: censorship


censorship 2_edited-2

Next thing you know they’ll be telling us we can’t ostracize and castigate those who are different!

Whenever I read about censorship attempts made against really intelligent books, my brain screams in terror. This comic is based on a challenge that came out recently in Michigan, regarding a book called Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. As it turned out, I recently read this book to my group of 40-odd kinders, and I thought it was a great story for little kids.

To the best of my recollection, the story is as follows: Morris is a regular kid who likes drawing and playing with his friends. He also likes putting on an orange dress in his classroom’s dress-up center. He likes the dress because it is the color of “tigers, the sun, and his mother’s hair.” Some of the kids tell him that boys can’t wear dresses and also that if he wears that dress he can’t do boy things, like pretend to be an astronaut. Morris thinks about it for a while and then decides those other kids can suck it. He informs them that he is a boy regardless of what he is wearing, and that anyone can pretend to be an astronaut, and then he takes them on a great make-believe astronaut adventure while wearing the dress.

I’d like to add that, following my reading of this book to 2 classrooms of 5-year-olds, not a single child died, became a drag queen, or suddenly found themselves “confused” about their identity.

As the author points out in the article, there’s absolutely nothing in the story to indicate that Morris is queer or trans or questioning or anything other than a little boy who has fun putting on a costume. The book is about bullying, and about why it’s not OK to exclude people because they’re different. But someone managed to take offense at that premise and assert their right to torment and denigrate people who are different. Can’t have our kids tolerating, you know. Our beliefs don’t allow us to tolerate.

Here’s a hint: if schools, businesses, and public offices are closed for your religion’s major holiday, you are not in a minority, and your beliefs are not under attack. If you know that the majority of people you see on TV, in the movies, and in your daily life are familiar with your religious traditions, you are not in a minority, and your beliefs are not under attack. If anyone has ever felt justifiable outraged because a coffee chain did not print symbols of your religion on their cups, you are not in a minority, and your beliefs are not under attack.

If someone says something you disagree with, you are not under attack.

On the other hand, if anyone has ever suggested that your very existence is “wrong,” “against god,” or  “a scathing indictment of the breakdown of American morality…literally celebrating perversion,” then you are probably an oppressed minority marginalized by the dominant culture, and it’s probably in your best interest if public schools teach that it’s OK for you to be yourself and it’s not OK for people to attack you for it.

If someone forces you to DO something that goes against your morality, then you have a lawsuit. If someone TELLS your child something you disagree with, you can politely disagree. People imparting information that does not jibe with your beliefs is not a crime. If it were, guess what: all the Jewish and Muslim and Pagan and Shinto and Hindu and traditional Native American families in America would sue any school district where kids were expected to learn Christmas carols or even hear the word “Santa” spoken.

There are about 9 million Jews in America, most of whom grew up being forced to learn someone else’s traditions in public schools. (All of them were laughing their heads off when your kids talked about Santa, because they knew those kids were being duped. And we sang your terrible Christmas music anyway.) And allow me to point out that, historically, Christian beliefs are much more threatening to Jewish people than gender nonconformity is to Christian people. Historically, Christian people are much more threatening to gender nonconforming people than gender nonconforming people are to Christian people. Do you know what the murder rate for the average American is? About 1 in 6000. Do you know what the murder rate is for gender nonconforming people? About 1 in 12. Maybe, if you’re against murder, you can accept that it might be necessary to teach people not to hate those who are different?

Here’s another thing: if your beliefs are so fragile that they can be shattered by reading about someone who thinks differently, maybe your beliefs aren’t really that strong. I know plenty of Christians who are loving and accepting and full of tolerance and live by the words of their book, and reactionary nut jobs are making them look bad.



love of reading_edited-1

In Tucson, the city sends registered voters a packet about ballot initiatives every year. This booklet includes the text of each initiative, a less formally worded explanation, and a collection of pro and con statements from members of the community. Anyone can write one. Often, these citizens’ arguments point out details that the city isn’t discussing. For example, a ballot initiative might say that the city wants to sell bonds to improve the roads, but what the initiative will really do is destroy wildlife habitat to pave a road that will only be used by 12 rich people living on top of the mountain.

However I’ve decided to vote on a particular issue, this guy, Jim Click, a rich local dude who owns a bunch of car dealerships, had ALWAYS published an argument in favor of the other side. So, after a while, instead of trying to wrap my head around some of the more complicated issues, doing hours of research, discussing the hidden intentions of each initiative with the politically savvy…well, sometimes I just look at how Jim Click is going to vote, and then I vote the other way.

Certain people just do not have your best interests in mind.

There’s this phenomenon regarding reviews of children’s literature. The phrase “promotes disrespect for adults” is code for a few things. First, it tells you that the writer believes that children cannot be trusted with anything like agency, that children are naturally wrong about everything and must be forced onto the proper path. They believe education involves telling people WHAT to think, rather than teaching them HOW to think. Second, it tells you that the kids in the book think for themselves, and break rules because they know better than the adults in the story. This charge was leveled at Harry Potter pretty often. Those kids are constantly breaking rules, and there are rarely any real negative consequences to rule breaking. In fact, by breaking rules, the kids prevent absolute tragedies, time and again.

Most good modern books for kids and teens involve young people living by their own rules with little regard to what adults think, even if they love and respect those adults. The point of children’s literature is to help kids grow up, and to grow up, you have to think for yourself. You have to go against authority when you think authority is wrong.

The book drawn in this comic is By the Side of the Road, written by Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist, Jules Feiffer. The story goes something like this: a kid is fooling around in the back seat of the car, and his dad flips out and tells him if he doesn’t get it together, he can just get out and wait by the side of the road. So the kid opts to get out and wait by the side of the road. And the side of the road is a blast. He has a better time by the side of the road than he ever does with his family. And when his dad comes back for him, he decides to stay by the side of the road. Permanently. And he does just fine. He leads a great life, by the side of the road, without his dad’s rage hanging over his head all the time.

I wanted to reread it, but they didn’t have it in my library system, so I’m waiting for the ILL, and while I was looking for a couple details to fill out the ILL request, I came across the 1 and 2 star Amazon reviews that used that phrase: “This book promotes disrespect for adults.”

This book is amazing. It’s hilarious. It’s smart. It’s a 5 star kids book. I’ve read it to many kids, and they all loved it. No child has ever read it and then ditched their family to live by the side of the road. Only starched shirt nut jobs read this book and think, “I can’t read this to a child. That child might get ideas.” Kids get the joke. Kids get that it’s the adult in this story who is being disrespectful to the child. The story returns power to children by allowing the kid to overcome unfairness.

But some people don’t seem to believe that children deserve respect.

Let me tell you something else about respect, and children.

You can’t get respect by demanding respect. You earn respect, by being fair and by treating people like human beings. If you make ridiculous rules and treat kids like livestock, you might teach them to fear you, or loathe you, but you won’t get their respect.

So, I’m actually pretty serious about this, because I deliberately read 1 star reviews of things all the time, and when it comes to books, the phrase “promotes disrespect for adults” is ALWAYS hung on the very best books, the ones that children love the most. So, if you want to earn the respect of a child, if you want to give them a book that they will enjoy reading, if you want to promote critical thinking skills in the young, it’s a tremendously useful metric.

Personally, I have never once tried to force a child respect me, and I have worked with literally thousands of kids in my life. And pretty much all of them treated me with respect.

Dragon Comics 91

It doesn't work of course. Politicians are in your schools, your churches, and your police stations. They'll get your kids, one way or another.

It doesn’t work of course. Politicians are in your schools, your churches, and your police stations. They’ll get your kids, one way or another.

Presidential elections terrify me. Our American political process is so bloated and corrupt. Tempers run high. The country is too big; we’re all too different. No single candidate can satisfy even 51% of us, and for people like me, with political views so far out of the mainstream that no one ever represents us, it’s just a farce. The money wasted is just a slap in the face. How many people could be fed, clothed, and housed for the nearly one billion dollars that a couple of billionaires focused on increasing their own assets casually promised to their favorite candidate?

The worst part is the campaigning. It’s not confined to any arena. It’s everywhere, and you can’t escape it, even if you want to. In the last election, I literally couldn’t figure out how to make Google News stop showing me election news. I strongly believe in compartmentalizing, but it’s not possible in presidential elections. Everyone has opinions and everyone shares them everywhere. You can’t not hear the mudslinging and muckraking and empty promises and bombastic bloviation.

It used to be considered in poor taste to discuss politics outside of political gatherings. Now it’s considered ignorant to not constantly spew your views regardless of whether or not people care to hear them. When you ask people to change the subject, they refuse.

I’d like to see some actual degree of democracy in the political process. The way I see it, it would be most fair to lay things out like this: anyone can establish a candidacy with a certain number of signatures on a petition, but all interested individuals would have to attain their own signatures in the same forum. No advertising in any other forum would be allowed, and in the first round, only position statements could be displayed. People would have to go to this political forum to determine which candidates interested them. Then, there would be a series of run-offs to limit the number of candidates to a reasonable degree, after which each viable candidate would be allotted the exact same amount of money to produce whatever campaign materials they needed, all of which could only be distributed through the same political forum: videos, pamphlets, ads. Debates would all be held on the same forum. We could all vote there, online, as well.

It’s the only non-disgusting way I can see it working. Right now what we’ve got is something between an oligarchy and a plutocracy, and it’s not working. Right now, we’d be seriously better off running the presidential campaign like American Idol or Survivor. It would be far more dignified than what we’re going to be subjected to in the next 18 1/2 months.