Friday, September 18, 2009

The Florida premiere of High School "Tolerance"

Imagine you're a parent, if you aren't one already. Let's say your teenage child comes home from school and cracks open the latest reading assignment--for the enriched class, mind you. After grinding away at the new novel, your child slaps the book closed, drops it like it's radioactive, and says you might want to take a look at the "gross pages" in this book, one which is required reading, mind you.

After perusing the passage in question, and agreeing with your child about the aforementioned grossness, what would you do? Scratch your head, say it's required reading, and then return to whipping up some dinner? Or do you tell your child that just because you get an assignment, it doesn't mean you have to do it against your will and your beliefs?

Such was the puzzlement facing Rafael and Mindy Mercado. Their daughter, Mari, brought home the Haruki Murakami novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This isn't a book for teenagers, or for anyone with high literary standards; it has a disjointed plot, characters with whom one cannot connect, and episodes of lubricious exhibitionism. However, it's won some awards, so there are plenty of people who will automatically assume it's wonderful reading, even for younger readers. For them, it's inappropriate, mind you.

My observations are not focused upon the Pasco County, Florida school system, which correctly decided to give young Miss Mercado something else to read, but on those who feel it's their civic duty to respond (without standing behind their responses, mind you) by attacking the Mercado family's very moral request.

This brings me to why I've been saying "mind you" so annoyingly much in this little missive. Much of the attacks (as is typical of much Internet-comment bile, if not most) were unsigned, toss-it-from-the-bushes nonsense. They attacked the student and her parents, rather than taking the time to focus on the issues raised. According to them, this student and her family are: Pathetic, sad, uninformed, spoiled, immature, closed-minded, and hypocritical (because they read the Bible, which is supposed to be "[f]ull of child abuse, kidnapping, murder, psychological and physical torture and incest"). And those are just some of the highlights. These were comments made without the use of developed minds; comments made with only the input of quivering, gelatinous emotions. Use your minds, people, particularly when you insist yours are so very well-developed.

But I digress.

As you might know, such brickbat-hurling is endlessly fascinating to me. So, I had to respond--and if the pattern holds, some of those brickbats will come flying in this direction. Which is, also, endlessly fascinating. My response to them, quoted thusly and like so:

Interesting to see so many hate-mongers coming out (or, generally, hiding behind first-name-only signatures and pseudonyms) to attack a young lady whose life has a solid moral foundation.

The "tolerant class" preaches capital-t Tolerance morning, noon, and night--as long as they're not required to be tolerant of those who disagree with them. Of course, nowadays "tolerance" is popularly defined by such people as "live your own life, but don't even make me think I'm not making a perfect choice with my life." You might have noticed that Miss Mercado and her father didn't try to inflict their beliefs upon the entire program, but rather asked for (and received) an alternate assignment. Unfortunately, the request suggested that students who read the book in question shouldn't have done so. And we can't have that, can we?

Freedom, boys and girls, carries with it responsibility. Miss Mercado, rather than mindlessly following the status quo, acted responsibly; some, mindlessly, attacked her for it.

Because of her moral foundation, this episode won't be the last time she'll weather such knee-jerk opposition--and that is probably the best lesson she'll learn this semester.



Jessica said...

Even one of Amazon's descriptions talks about how dark it is and how it jumps from "detective story to explicit sexual fantasy".

At least they let her do another assignment.

Whether people like it or not, we don't really thrive on individuality. Most people thrive on people being the same because it reinforces that what they are doing is "right".

Mike Bratton said...

The comfort of the group, however large or small, can be both comforting and empowering. That explains some, but not all, of the attacks against that family--the desire to protect the status quo.