We’re Here, We’re Not Queer, & We Hate Minorities

To those who enjoy discriminating against their fellow citizen and think we’re doing the Lord’s work in the Middle East, I ask you this: what’s wrong with Holden Caulfield?

With so many things to hate — blacks, Jews, Mexicans, the French, liberals, and city-folk — are you so filled with bigoted, hateful emotions that you need to draw down your ire on fictional characters?

Gerald Allen thinks so. As a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, he’s written a bill that would prohibit public funds from being used to purchase “textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.” The reason for this? Protecting children from a subversive “homosexual agenda,” of course.

“Our culture, how we know it today, is under attack from every angle,” Allen said in a press conference last week. Thankfully, though, the concrete surrounding Allen’s brain is tolerance-proof.

While I’m sure there are many concerned parents hoping their son or daughter don’t listen to k.d. lang or visit the bath houses, I charge them to explain how censoring popular American fiction from their community is a positive thing.

You see, Allen’s ban doesn’t just keep Playgirl off library shelves, it also attacks cherished mainstream novels and plays like The Color Purple, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Brideshead Revisited, even to adults aware of the content. Does Allen care? Of course not. His recommendation is to “dig a hole and dump them in it.”

Allen’s bill even prevents community colleges from performing A Chorus Line because it features a prominent gay solo. “Why can’t you do something else?” he asks.

Something else? How about Shakespeare? The Bard may have penned some of the most memorable fiction in the English language, but there are homosexual undertones throughout his work. Couple that with the risqué origins of his theater (men-only productions were common practice) and comedies like As You Like It are added to the endangered species list as well. So how about that?

“Well… literature like Shakespeare and Hammet [sic] could be left alone.” But, he adds, “you could tone it down.”

How about this, Ger? You tone down your hillbilly rhetoric and learn to spell and I’ll tone down my seething hatred for elitis pricks. That sound reasonable, you ass?

This is not an isolated example, by the way. Andrea Minnon, a Maine resident, wants Catcher in the Rye banned from her son’s freshman reading program as well because it “espouses immoral ideas.” Apparently Minnon has lived in a bubble for 50 years and is only now catching up on the controversy the book has generated, but at least she’s reading the book herself to see if it’s something she wants her child to read. That’s how a child is protected — involved parenting, not draconian public policy.

But Gerald Allen has the ear of the President of the United States. In the past several months, Allen has met with George Bush five times to discuss his mandate on moral issues. Bush considers Allen part of his base constituency, and according to that, Americans hate even the notion that a homosexual might have any positive traits whatsoever.

This is not an argument on the value of gay men and women in American society. I believe all have the potential for greatness or idiocy regardless of race, creed, faith or sexuality. Nor is this an argument on the quality of the content of the books proposed banned under Allen’s legislation, as I’m sure some are just plain awful. This is about censorship, pure and simple.

There is nothing to be gained from book banning save a fascist America. Books are by and large an individual experience, tailored to appeal to a particular audience.

However, some books transcend genre and speak to an entire society. While I won’t argue that Tennessee Williams is a sad, closeted hack, his stories bring awareness to Middle America that there are uncomfortable issues with homosexuality or pseudo-feminisism somewhere else in their country. Every person I’ve spoken to about Catcher in the Rye finds something relatable about it in its pages despite the controversy. These kinds of stories are precisely the ones that should be available because they invite shock or outrage and transport readers to a different mindset. And what is point of literature if not to generate discussion?

Strip away positive stories about subjugated minorities and all we’re left with is demonization and falsehood. Look to Iraq as an example — a region with thousands of years of rich cultural heritage has been transformed into a land of fanatical savages moving to the beat of the American war drum.

The literary heritage of the United States, once lively and thought-provoking, is falling into the same intolerant rut the government has fallen prey to. Once a nation that printed and revered dissident poet Boris Pasternak’s sweeping indictment of Soviet culture, Dr. Zhivago, we’re on a fast track to limit the number of voices that can be heard. How times have changed.

So where does it end? Does the mere mention of a homosexual curdle your blood? I guarantee striking gays from the reading list will only be the beginning: soon anything contrary to the government, the Christian God, or this arbitrary set of morals will be verboten. Even worse, in limiting what voices we hear, future generations will grow up ignorant and afraid. That’s a cycle that needs to end.

Gore Vidal, a critic of George W. Bush’s regime, could find himself out of work because no one will hire a gay writer writing his obviously gay views. Looking for the new Elton John record? He’s a queer — no dice.

Once this way of thinking starts it does not stop. If a hayseed like Gerald Allen can bend the ear of the president and enact a doctrine of intolerance for gays, who’s to say he and his followers can’t target other groups?

According to fiction writer Ray Bradbury, 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which books burn. Does the political climate have to get that hot before real freedom-loving Americans get uncomfortable with supporting such encroachments on their liberty?