Total Pageviews

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Christians fight for the 'right' to burn book

Following on from the religious theme, in America (where else), in the appropriately named town of West Bend, Wisconsin (yes, really!), a group of Christians have filed a legal claim to hold a public book burning. The book in question is Francesca Lia Block's Baby Be-Bop, which the Christians claim is "explicitly vulgar, racial and anti Christian."

Baby Be-Bop, which according to Amazon was first published in the mid 1990's (what took these Christians so long?) is a gay coming of age tale set in the 1950's, in which the main character, a boy who is struggling with his homosexuality, is beaten up by a homophobic gang.

The complaint was lodged by four men from the Christian Civil Liberties Union. In addition to the 'right' to burn the book, they are also claiming $120,000 (£72,000) in compensation for being exposed to the book in a display at West Bend Community Memorial Library. The plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim that their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by the book at the library," and that it contains derogatory language that could "put one's life in possible jeopardy, both adults and children alike."

They claim that the use of words in the book such as "faggot" and "nigger" are derogatory and offensive, permeating violence. I can see their point, but personally believe that it depends on the context in which these words are used. I have not read the book, so cannot really comment, but we have to remember that it is set in the 1950's when the use of such words was commonplace. The author no doubt felt that she had to use them in order to make the book authentic. I also remember the famous Big Brother episode from a few years back (not that I normally watch BB you understand) with Charley and the unfortunate Emily, where Emily (the white girl) was evicted for using the N word, which her black house mates used all the time to describe other members of their race. I was not alone in observing the double standard whereby it was alright for black people to use this word, but not for whites.

This is not of course to say that I think the use of this word is okay, as like I said, it all depends on the context, sometimes, as I suspect is the case with Francesca, you need to use words like this in order to make a point.

The city of West Bend though have to decide whether or not this claim is valid, and their insurers are currently evaluating this. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, acting director of the ALA's office for Intellectual Freedom said "I would be very surprised if they found any merit in this claim. Should they find any, we would certainly support the library in fighting it."

This legal challenge comes in the back of a lengthy campaign by residents, which was finally thrown out at the beginning of June, to restrict access to teenage books deemed sexually explicit from library shelves. Larry Siems, director of PENS said "Obviously we were really pleased with the outcome to that – there was a unanimous vote to keep the books in the library and we thought the matter should be over." Siems added that there seemed to be "a bit of theatre" in this new lawsuit, which had little possibility of going forward. He added "It does seem more to gain publicity than a real serious challenge." But, he said, PEN remained very concerned about the impulse behind the claim. "This is a group of people trying aggressively to rid the library of these books and that's very serious - it needs to be fought."

What are my views on this - I am not a Christian, or member of any organised faith, preferring to go my own way, but I respect the rights of others to follow whatever path they choose - as long as that path does not impinge upon the lives or the rights of others. If it is allowed to continue, then as far as I can see, this court case will impinge upon the lives and the rights of many - especially vulnerable young adults, who thanks to people like these aforementioned Christians, struggle with their own sexuality. When you start to talk about public book burning, it becomes a dangerous game, and makes one wonder where it will all end. Thousands of priceless and irreplaceble texts were destroyed by such bogoted actions at the library in Alexandria, and more recently during the cultural revolution in China.

The main character in this book is attacked and beaten up by a homophobic gang, something which is still all too common in both Britain and the United States (remember that in some countries, homosexuality is still punishable by death). Both a public book burning and these gang attacks are a form of violence by cowards and bullies who are too afraid to look into their own souls and examine why they revile homosexuality so much - in most cases, it is nothing to do with their religious beliefs, but to do with their own fears and insecurities - there is something about what they see as feminine men that they find challenging - men you see, are not supposed to be like this, they are supposed to be macho and strong and not express their feelings, especially not with other men. This I believe is the root cause of this fear, the recognition that their own feminine side is crying out to be seen and acknowledged, and their fear of expressing this and of being seen as vulnerable.

This is a shame, as society needs a generation of men who are able to express both masculine and feminine in equal amounts as we move towards a more balanced and equal state. We need men who have that softer edge to their personality, who are not afraid to express who they truly are. I am fortunate in that my own wonderful partner is one of those men. I have known since the start of our relationship twelve years ago that he was a cross dresser, but this does not make him gay - far from it, as he loves women - in every sense of the word, so much so that he wants to be one!

No comments:

Post a Comment