Friday, March 09, 2007

Howell: A Postscript

By way of postscript to a piece I wrote, last week, which details efforts on the part of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE) to pressure the school board, in Howell, Michigan, into removing such modern classics as Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," Richard Wright's "Black Boy," and Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" from high school curriculum on grounds of obscenity comes the following:

Late yesterday, U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy III and the Michigan attorney general's office announced that complaints of obscenity by LOVE are without merit, and there has been no violation of federal law by placing the above-mentioned books on the Howell school approved reading list. (ABFFE) While this is a clear victory for the First Amendment, and shows that there are signs, however small, of intelligent life left in this country, one cannot help but wonder, along with American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression president, Chris Finan, why it is that a complaint by one person to a local school board about what she considers objectionable content would be referred by a U.S. attorney to the FBI in the first place? If one patron in a movie theatre complains about the air conditioning, the theatre seldom turns it off, but if one parent complains about profanity in a novel, it gets referred to the U.S. attorney who then summarily passes it on to the FBI? Hopefully, Murphy's decision shows that he's done his homework, and recognizes that pursuing this obscenity charge is both ludicrous, and frivolous in light of obscenity trials of the past century

And, at the end of a week in which it was disclosed that the Justice Department has been investigating underreporting of use of the USA Patriot Act to harass companies to turn over personal data about their customers, one also wonders how it is that there is so little focus on, and i nvestigation of a proliferation of inc idents involving attempts to ban books in public schools, such respected titles as "Tiger Eyes," by Judy Blume, and "The Chocolate War," by Robert Cormier? While we are all outraged by the prospect of a presidential pardon of Scooter Libby, where is our rightful sense of outrage over the affliction of right wing agoraphobia into our public schools?