Issue 92, Winter 2003/2004

  • In Harrisonburg, VA, the home of a professor and her family was set on fire along with the anti-war sign they had displayed. Cindy Hunter, Sam Nickels and their children were driven from their blazing home for expressing their political views. Community members rallied for free speech with signs saying “I thought this was America,” and denounced the arson as “domestic terrorism.”
  • Sharon Huff must have been stunned when her seven-year-old son was disciplined in second-grade at Ernest Gallet Elementary School in Lousiana’s Lafayette Parish for telling another child that his mother is gay and explaining that “gay is when a girl likes a girl.” He was sent home with a teacher’s note saying, “This kind of discussion is not acceptable in my room.” The child was required to write several times, “I will never use the word ‘gay’ in school again.” The ACLU has asked the district to apologize for violating the child’s constitutional rights. The school board has scheduled a special meeting to consider the teacher’s actions.
  • According to Amnesty International, Miami police used excessive force on reporters and protesters at the Free Trade Agreement meetings in November. A coalition of labor, environmental and anti-globalization groups charged that police used rubber bullets and pepper spray on peaceful protesters, handcuffed them at gunpoint, and denied food, water, and medicine to dozens they jailed. The United Steelworkers of America is seeking a Congressional investigation.
  • Speaking of dissent, the Bush administration has instituted an oxymoronic policy of “free speech zones” away from his motorcades where people carrying signs opposed to administration policies are relegated—out of sight and hearing of the President. Those carrying friendly messages are welcome in the President’s vicinity.
  • Political art is not welcome in the Fairfield Center for the Arts in California, so discovered artist Jim Kimberly who was asked to remove his sculpture from display shortly after jurors had accepted it. The work, The Super Imposer, is an interactive sculpture consisting of a stationary bike with a panel of an American flag on one side and an image of Osama bin Laden on the other. When it is pedaled, the two images fuse. The piece was declared a “fire hazard” after it aroused controversy.
  • Advanced English high school students in Fort Cherry, PA, were told to hand up their books—Michael Meyer’s Bedford Introduction to Literature—when four of its selections were challenged: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Alice Munro’s Wild Swans, Alice McDermott’s Enough and Lust by Susan Minot. Other books currently under fire include Judy Blume’s Deenie in Jacksonville, FL; John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in Normal, IL; Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower in Massapequa, NY; Robie Harris’ It’s Perfectly Normal in Greeley, CO. In Modesto, CA, the decision to remove Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by award-winner Louis Rodriguez from junior high classes was overturned.