Reading is fundamental. This has been especially true for me, because one cannot be a writer without first being a reader. I read so much and so often when I was a kid, even in the dark, that when I had glasses made for me at the age of eight, the optician was convinced all that reading had done my eyesight in. I still read a lot these days, but under better lighting conditions, of course. I encourage all my students to read, and can get quite carried away answering their questions about literature.
Reading exercises the imagination, broadens the mind, and expands one’s knowledge. I’ve been made fun of by lesser mortals for having a wealth of “useless” information stored in my brain, but that same information has come in handy countless times – and I owe it all to reading.
I suppose this is a large part of the reason I am particularly indignant about the National Library Board pandering to what I can only assume are homophobic religious fundamentalists who mistakenly believe it is their right to police the literary choices of others (among other things).
For those still in the dark about the situation: three children’s books, And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express, and Who’s In My Family?,have been removed from the NLB’s circulation, after it received complaints from an as-yet-unidentified “member of the public”. Coincidentally – or not – the Facebook hate group, We are against Pinkdot in Singapore, has kept its members updated on the latest developments.
Of course, I don’t have to tell you that the usual “pro-family” arguments were used in the banning of those three books. And Tango Makes Three is based on the true story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo, who successfully hatched and raised a baby penguin. The White Swan Express features a single mother, a lesbian couple, and child adoption. Who’s In My Family?, as my research tells me, is merely about different types of families. In the complainant’s warped and impossibly narrow view of what constitutes a “family”, such elements are deemed undesirable, and therefore, should be censored from children’s literature.
Now, it is one thing to disagree with someone, and quite another to attempt to legalize your disagreement so as to deny that person his right to live as he pleases, so long as he does not harm others. For instance, I have eaten durian on several occasions in the past, and have never gotten used to its taste or smell. However, I have never attempted to outlaw durian consumption in Singapore simply because I don’t like it – I’m just happy no one shakes durians in my face or threatens to poke me to death with their spikes if I don’t eat their fruit. Similarly, you can choose to bring your kids to the library and ensure that their young minds are not exposed to such satanic, anti-family books – without having to force others to follow suit.
But I digress. Having books banned from the local library is next to book-burning. And you know who is famous for book-burning? Nazis, the late Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church fame, and Josef Stalin, to name but a few. So congratulations, anonymous complainant(s) – you have something in common with some of the biggest jerkwads in modern history. I hope you’re immensely proud of yourselves.
Already, an open letter / petition against the NLB’s removal of the books has been published. To get in on the action, simply click on the following image:
To the rest of you out there, who I believe are not threatened by people who happen to be different from you, much less a couple of children’s books whose content happens to be different from most children’s books, allow me to propose an idea:
1. Visit your local library.
2. Pick out at least three books from each section.
3. Think of (ridiculous) reasons those books should be removed from the NLB’s circulation.
4. Write a letter to the NLB with a list of those books and the reasons they should be banned.
5. Have like-minded individuals sign and endorse the letter, then send it.
6. Wait for a reply. If none is given within two weeks, press them for one.
7. If they pander, inform them you intend to have every book that is not pro-Singapore or pro-family banned, i.e. only LKY’s memoirs, and books on sex and reproduction are allowed. See what they have to say.
8. If they don’t pander, make them offer a satisfactory explanation as to what makes the “pro-family” complainant more special than you are. Needless to say, no explanation they give will be satisfactory.
Why would I suggest something like this? Because, my friends, even though bigots and fundamentalists of every belief system, creed, culture and class think they are taking a firm stand when they seek to force their ideals on others, the folly of their actions is greater than they would care to admit.
When one chooses a slippery slope on which to make a stand, it won’t be long before he finds himself tumbling into an avalanche of his own doing. And I, for one, am more than happy to help make it an avalanche of epic proportions. Also, just as I cannot stomach the taste of durians, something tells me these enemies of unabridged, uncensored education are unable to stomach the taste of their own medicine.