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'Community Crusaders' - A Commentary

By Marisa Trevi?o, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – I once knew a woman who had many children.
She fought for the right to breast-feed in public and home-school her brood.
But instead of being enlightened, she marched on like a fool.
Condemning all who disagreed with her other views:
Gays were bad people
Pro-choice a sin
And literature that offended her senses - well, burning them.
In her eyes, she was put on this earth to parent the world.
The sad thing was, no one cared to call her dare.

I'll be the first to admit I'm no poet laureate, but my reasons for writing the bad verse are two-fold. First, to put to rhyme my observations of a woman I really did know who felt she was the community crusader. Secondly, to underscore the fact that there is no rhyme or reason for the latest showdown regarding literary censorship. I'm talking about the wails erupting over a passage included in the children's book, "The Trouble With Babies." In her second book in the series, author Martha Freeman wanted to illustrate what kind of neighbors live next to one another on a San Francisco block. Her downfall was that she chose to be as realistic as possible by including a family consisting of two gay fathers and their adopted son. The family was mentioned as background for the story. Yet, some "community crusaders" across the country have strongly declared that Freeman must have a "homosexual agenda" for having included it. These parent crusaders have been so loud in their criticism that Freeman's publisher, Holiday House, has already told Freeman that the book's sales are poor and not to count on the paperback rights to be sold. On top of that, librarians, weary to battle overzealous extremist parents, are taking the book off their shelves or not buying it at all. Freeman, who writes to earn money to send her children to school, feels cornered. She must decide whether or not to include the gay characters in any future plots, knowing that to do so could hurt her earnings. But to not do it would allow those critics to implement their ignorant form of censorship.

After all, it's not required reading for any school curriculum. If parents don't want their children reading the story, they just don't have to buy it or check it out. Why is it that parent crusaders feel that other parents are not capable of making their own decisions? One reason may be the gay issue itself. We'd like to think we're more open to gay families. Several prominent celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell and Melissa Etheridge have brought their gay family lifestyle to the forefront, but as seen in Louisiana last year, the mere mention of gays by a 7-year-old can arouse the most cruel responses from "educated" adults.

Marcus McLaurin was disciplined by his teacher and principal because he shared with another classmate the fact that his mother was gay and supplied his definition of a gay person. The school's overreaction to an innocent 7-year-old merely telling the truth highlights what fuels parent crusaders wielding intimidating words to get their way: intolerance.

Thanks to intolerance, we continue to have school bullies, prejudice and racism. People will continue to live in fear and distrust of those who are different from themselves.

Thanks to intolerance, stories that show children that everyone can live side-by-side and get along will be nothing more than words never read.

Marisa Trevino is a writer from Rowlett.