The loves of flightless waterfowl

Free­dom to Read Week: Feb­ru­ary 22–28, 2015

Free­dom to Read, Entry #1: your hum­ble blog­ger reveals the soul-scorch­ing evil that is pen­guin lust

In 2005, a book of incal­cu­la­ble destruc­tive pro­por­tions was unleashed, with mal­ice afore­thought, upon an inno­cent and unsus­pect­ing pub­lic. With­in its pages lurked the sol­diers of blas­phe­my. Cam­ou­flaged with­in the spare prose was the insid­i­ous pro­pa­gan­da of the homo­sex­u­al cabal. The book’s colour­ful imagery spoke of evils beyond com­pare. Its very exis­tence spit in the eye of God.

Or so a cer­tain sub­set of pas­sion­ate lunatic would have us believe.

Not every book is going to suit the mind­set of every per­son. That’s a giv­en. And as a librar­i­an, I’ve had my small share of deal­ings with unset­tled patrons tak­ing issue with a book or two. One such patron, dou­bly upset that A) there exist­ed a book on angels that had noth­ing what­so­ev­er to do with the Chris­t­ian bible (think more new-age feel-good­ery like this one), and B) we wouldn’t take it off the shelves sim­ply on her demand, asked that she be allowed to pur­chase the book for her­self, pre­sum­ably to save us all. Throw­ing her­self on the grenade of blas­phe­my, as it were.

Yet my first encounter with reli­gious tom­fool­ery and evan­gel­i­cal inani­ty remains my favourite, which is why I’d like to briefly dis­cuss the incen­di­ary trea­tise and Tan­go Makes Three.

For those requir­ing con­text, and Tan­go Makes Three is a children’s pic­ture book (writ­ten by Peter Par­nell and Justin Richard­son, illus­trat­ed by Hen­ry Cole). The book is based on the true-life sto­ry of Roy and Silo, two male chin­strap pen­guins liv­ing at New York’s Cen­tral Park Zoo. Roy and Silo made a nest togeth­er, and seemed to be try­ing to hatch an egg-shaped rock. When zookeep­ers real­ized that the two male pen­guins had become a cou­ple, they pro­vid­ed them with an egg to hatch. Roy and Silo took turns sit­ting on the egg, and even­tu­al­ly it hatched. This new female chick was named Tan­go.

Nice sto­ry. Warms my cock­les. But who could have guessed such a charm­ing tale would become the most dev­as­tat­ing dan­ger to soci­ety since manda­to­ry vac­ci­na­tions and the cli­mate change hoax.

You see, due to the pen­guin par­ents being of the same sex, some have object­ed to chil­dren read­ing the book. Appar­ent­ly, cas­es of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in ani­mals is seen as “con­tro­ver­sial” by those who believe that assert­ing the nat­u­ral­ness of ani­mal homo­sex­u­al­i­ty impacts on the moral­i­ty of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in humans. In oth­er words:

Rather pre­dictably, the book became a tar­get for every god­both­er­ing biblethumper who need­ed proof that soci­ety was spi­ralling the moral sew­er. Library chal­lenges abound­ed. Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion, and Tan­go Makes Three was the most chal­lenged book of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010, and fur­ther made the top ten in 2009 and 2012.

All ensur­ing that sales of the book would go through the roof. Because obvi­ous­ly.

So you can imag­ine my thrill when a con­cerned patron approached me, shak­en to his core that he had tak­en the book out to read to his chil­dren and was con­front­ed with evil on a scale not seen since women got them­selves the vote.

I kid, but not real­ly.

I calm­ly informed the patron of the book’s back­ground as a true-life inci­dent, and said that I would bring his con­cerns up at the next Library Board meet­ing for dis­cus­sion. (Which I did. The book remained on the shelf, if that gives you any indi­ca­tion of how the meet­ing ulti­mate­ly went. There was much chortling.) I went on to remind the patron that a pub­lic library works to ensure access to infor­ma­tion to every­one, and such a code neces­si­tates the inclu­sion of mate­ri­als that may not be to the lik­ing of all patrons.

This did not go over well. The reac­tion was such that I am remind­ed of a clas­sic Jon Stew­art quip:

Inci­den­tal­ly, this same patron’s wife lat­er request­ed the library place warn­ing stick­ers on every book that might con­tain sim­i­lar­ly upset­ting and “con­tro­ver­sial” con­tent, to which I replied, “Ummmmmm…no.” Because if you are the par­ent, you are the warn­ing stick­er.

Look, I abstract­ly sym­pa­thize. There are books that, some­times, I wish weren’t on the shelves. But a pub­lic library demands the widest pos­si­ble col­lec­tion to ensure all mem­bers of the pub­lic are well served. Out­side of my per­son­al home library (where I serve a life­time tenure as benev­o­lent despot), I do not wield the moral author­i­ty to choose the read­ing mate­ri­als of oth­ers. Nor should any­one.

But claim­ing a mul­ti­ple award-win­ning book on hap­py male pen­guins rais­ing a chick is sub­vert­ing our youth is lazy scape­goat­ing, and does a major dis­ser­vice to our youth, the con­cept of hyper­bole, and those souls who are active­ly seek­ing to sub­vert our youth: par­ents.

I’m look­ing at you, Mr. and Mrs. Redekop. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!

And one final Bloom Coun­ty car­toon, not quite on point but cer­tain­ly in the zone:


Corey Redekop writes this blog, so don’t both­er com­plain­ing about this post. He’ll ignore it. What an ass.