2006-10-13 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

Nobody Asked Me, But ... (What's The World Coming to Edition)
Commentary By Howard Schwach


...Teacher Sydney McGee, an art teacher with 28 years in the classroom, took her fifth grade classes to the Dallas Museum of Art, one of the most highly respected museums in the nation. This was not the first time she had taken her students to that particular museum and it probably would not have been the last had not one of the parents complained to the principal that her daughter had seen "nude art" while taking a tour of the galleries. She was immediately suspended by principal Nancy Lawson for "exposing your students to nude statues and other nude representations." I have to wonder if either the principal or the parent who complained has ever been in a museum. And, I have to wonder if this is not another challenge by the Neocons and religious right to put an end to what they see as a "godless society." Imagine that, nudity in a Greek or Roman statue. The museum's director said that, over the past decade, more than half a million students, including more than 1,000 from that school district, have toured the museum's collection of 26,000 works spanning 5,000 years of human history. He added that he never had one complaint about the content of the art housed in the museum until that one parent's complaint. What is the world coming to? The other parents in that school district should rise up and smote the principal, who obviously does not deserve the job she so loftily holds.

...Steven Howards is a Colorado environmental consultant. He decided to let Vice President Dick Chaney have a piece of his mind about Iraq during the VP's visit to that state. Howards went to a mall for a public appearance and told Chaney, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible." Talk about free speech and redressing grievances in a public forum. He was quickly handcuffed and arrested by secret service agent Virgil Reichie. He was charged with assaulting the vice president, but the local police kicked the charges down to a misdemeanor harassment charge that was then thrown out by a state judge. Now, Howards is suing the agent and the vice president for a violation of his right to free speech and illegal search and seizure. It's a good thing he wasn't arrested under the Patriots Act. He could very well have wound up in a Marine prison in Cuba.

...Representative Mark Foley, a Neocon Republican, dispatched very inappropriate e-mail messages to teenage male pages. It is not clear whether or not he actually acted on his flirting pastime, so he may not have committed a criminal offense, but he certainly came close. After his emails were made public, Foley resigned his House seat, admitting first that he was indeed homosexual and then claiming that he was sexually molested by a clergy member while he was young. There are two problems with the story: First of all, Foley is a Conservative Christian and the chair of the House committee that draws the laws that protect teenagers from pedophiles. Holy irony! He talked a good anti-pedophile game and pushed his religious beliefs at the same time he was sending those emails asking 16-year-olds if they were "horny for him" or if they "would like an goodnight kiss." Secondly, it seems now that the Republican leadership in general and Majority Leader Dennis Hastert in particular, knew what was going on and asked him to stay because they wanted to keep the seat intact for the party. Seems that, at least to Republicans, maintaining the seat was more important that keeping the House pages safe from sexual harm.

...Peggy Lee Penley's marriage was going sour. She turned to a licensed professional counselor who happened to also be both a friend and a pastor. She confided her sexual relationship with a man other than her husband and her plan to seek a divorce to her counselor, C.L Westbrook, expecting that he would respect the counselor-counselee vow of privacy. He did not. Instead, he shamed her publicly before the congregation by informing the full congregation of the church of her peccadillo and her intent to divorce her husband. She sued in a Texas state court. That court dismissed Penley's case, saying that the court had no right messing in religious issues. An appeals court revived it, stating that Westbrook was acting as a counselor, not as a pastor when he spoke with Penley. Now, the Texas Supreme Court has the case and their decision may very well impact the way courts see religion all over the nation, because the case is almost certain to go to the US Supreme Court no matter what way it is decided by the Texas court.

...Gang violence in New York City is decidedly up. There have already been nearly fifty more violent gang incidents this year than there was in the entire 2005. While lots of problems are created on the street, there is a growing gang problem in the schools as well, rivaling the 1980's and early 1990's "Five-Percenter" epidemic in local schools. Everybody in the school community is concerned in the impact that gangs have on schools with the exception of the Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He said that the rise in juvenile crime is "troublesome," but that "overall crime and disruptive behavior in the school is going down significantly." That was said the same day that school safety officers took three guns (albeit only BB guns) from city students.

...I have been going to Yankee games since 1948 and always thought of them as city heroes. Now, however, the team has joined with Steiner Collectables to rip off the true fan. Send in your game ticket and the collectables firm will send you back a framed ticket stub, a vial of dirt from the stadium floor, a game-used base and a replica line-up card along with a "descriptive nameplate with details of the game." How much. A paltry $599.99. Want something cheaper. For only $99.99 you can get the dirt and a replica line-up card framed with that same descriptive nameplate.

...There is always a move somewhere in the nation to ban a particular book. Most of those movements begin with the religious right and its "family values" offshoot. A parent in Atlanta is trying to force a school board to take the "Harry Potter" series off school library shelves because the books are "an evil attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion." What next? Cinderella? MacBeth? We all need some evil in our literature.

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