Friday, April 21, 2006

Harry Potter be Damned! or How I learned to hate the ignorance bomb!

Some Atlanta area parents are leading a campaign to have the Harry Potter books banned from local school libraries. "People who love the books say they are happy that kids are reading the books as much as they are. They say that the books are ultimately about good versus evil. But opponents say that the books with their magic wands and spells are all about evil." WXIA (Atlanta) 04/20/06

Click here to read the entire ridiculous article.

Book banning in the south… lovely. My daughter adores the Harry Potter books. She read her first one while in the first grade at the age of five. The little witch.....

For all its typical small-town, closed-minded southern faults; I recall that my High School had a very strong English Department. Three out of four of the instructors were extremely well-traveled; in fact I recall one teacher was actually in Tiananmen Square when the protests broke-out.

Every year the department’s teachers recruited interesting literary figures to lecture and sign books for two days. I still have my signed edition of Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Meyers. Undoubtedly, the most impressive of all our celebrity acquisitions was the appointment of a national Poet Laureate to speak at our humble school. At the time of his visit, Howard Nemerov was actually living only three hours away in St. Louis, so that may have had something to do with our luck in landing such a prestigious figure for a lowly high school speaking engagement.

Quite a bit of Mr. Nemerov’s work, to say the least, is rather graphic. Other works notoriously reflect his less than stellar views on blind faith and the authoritarian power of God. Here are a few quotes from Nemerov:

The nice thing about the Bible is it doesn't give you too many facts. Two an a half lines and it tells you the whole story and that leaves you a great deal of freedom to elaborate on how it might have happened.”

Somebody asked me 'Do you believe in God now' I said "No, but I talk to him much more than I used to.”

“Well the spirit world doesn't admit to communicating with me either so it's fairly even. As it's said if you talk to God its prayer. If God talks to you it's paranoia - an early 20th century American folk saying.”

It was this perspective that he reflected in his poetry (or maybe it was more that he chose to live his poetry), that led to a bit of an impertinent confrontation between a group of self-imposed teenage religious authoritarians and this poet during his address at our southern Missouri school. This small, but vocal group of bible-thumpers, called Nemerov on the carpet as a pornographer, tool of Satan, and swindler of ersatz-literature. He was obviously distraught by the auditorium altercation, but in true Nemerov fashion his quick wit sailed him through the barriers of our peer’s ignorance.

I was still a lowly Jr. High student at the time, only allowed to attend the lecture because my father was a teacher and it gave me carte blanche to many of the school functions. I remained quiet throughout the talk, absorbing his genius and hiding in my shame for the vocal dissidents. That evening after the address, Mr. Nemerov was gone but not forgotten as the rebels regaled their champion tales of conquest over the great sinful “poet” of all that was wrong with the nation. We were together, them and I, at a church-related function. Although I did my best to maintain some distance over the course of the evening; it was blaringly obvious that the morning’s actions were deftly coordinated by this small youthful group of my fellow congregants. I relive the disgust of that entire day every time I hear a story of censorship directed towards saving the innocence of our youth. I mentioned in a previous post my adoration for the word “true”. When I think of innocence it is the word “true” that first comes to mind as a proper description. Looking back, those protesting students were hardly innocent in their mocking dissent and final evening’s celebration. That morning in that auditorium the mass of us sat by, as the only person with a hint of truth was attacked for his artistic integrity. The following year Howard Nemerov died of cancer in St. Louis. I suppose the fight for genuinely honest art is often a very lonely battle. - DN

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just knew watching "Bewitched" would lead to harder things!!

How can these people spend time doing this when the DaVinci Code is still a best seller, and with a movie of it's own to bring us terrible darkness and more bad Tom Hanks haircuts?

I remember the storms of riots which shook our cities in the 60's, over "I dream of Jeannie" before Barbara Eden covered her belly button! A nice muslim girl she was too.Scandalous!