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: