Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | June 19, 2012

Puh-lease: Downtown definition, library disrespect, epic censorship fails

It’s time for another periodic round-up of things that make me roll my eyes, shake my head, and utter a two-syllable puh-lease.

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Complaints that Morgan Hill’s annual Independence Day concert is being taken from downtown induce eye rolls. The protests have erupted in response to a decision to move the concert from Monterey between Second and Third streets to the outdoor amphitheater at the Community and Cultural Center a few blocks south. Both locations are in downtown Morgan Hill.

Zoning Morgan Hill via Google Earth from the Flickr photostream of Eric Rice

The Community and Cultural Center, which runs between Dunne and Fifth streets and Monterey and Depot streets, is the anchor of downtown Morgan Hill. Given the costs associated with street closures and the cleanup problems associated with the old location, it makes sense to move the concert to a different downtown location that just happens to have been designed for exactly this type of event.

We heard similar protests when the Friday Night Music series was moved to the Community and Cultural Center, a change that has gone well. People who don’t know geography and ignore history? Puh-lease.

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As a library lover, I’m disgusted to read about the vandalism that’s occurring at Gilroy’s brand-new library. Head shakes and eye rolls do not suffice.

Staff writer Carly Geisinger reported that the two-story, $34 million facility that opened on April 28 is being defaced by graffiti and worse, including urination in elevators and spitting from the library’s second-floor balcony to the lobby below.

A library is a place to engage in life-long learning, to access information and ideas in a wide variety of forms. As journalist Carl Rowan said, “The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.”

The disrespect that some people are showing for Gilroy’s new temple of learning is a stunning and sobering symptom and a bad omen for the future.

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I shake my head every time I consider the simple lesson that’s oddly difficult for so many to grasp: Censorship rarely works.

People have tried to ban books for centuries, and still try today. The book lovers at the American Library Association react by devoting a week each year to celebrating banned books. Each summer, the ALA “promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular.” Libraries across the country draw attention to challenged and banned books, including classics like To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the Harry Potter series. The ALA reports that all of those books are among the most frequently challenged books in the first decade of the 21st century.

Earlier this year, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tried to bully birth control advocates into silence by calling them sluts and prostitutes. Critics reacted by voicing their outrage and by encouraging Limbaugh’s advertisers to reconsider if they wanted to be associated with him. Limbaugh’s program lost dozens of advertisers. The young woman he attacked has become a well-known public policy advocate.

Earlier this month, the Catholic Church’s leadership decided to formally censure a nun who wrote Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, written in 2006 by Yale Divinity School professor Sister Margaret Farley. The result: Farley’s book went from 142,982nd to 16th on Amazon’s best-seller list.

Last week, after a debate about abortion legislation, Republican Michigan House leaders banned two female representatives from speaking on the floor of the House for alleged violations of “decorum.” Their crimes? One used the word “vagina” and the other “vasectomy.”

Pardon my eye roll while I consider the tender sensibilities of GOP lawmakers in Michigan.

As a result of the disingenuous umbrage, much of the world is mocking the Michigan GOP, and the gagged legislators gained access to a broader audience and a bigger spotlight than they likely would have ever been able to without the ridiculous gag order. Moreover, the Michigan GOP brought renewed attention to a campaign issue that the Romney camp would just as soon ignore: The GOP’s war on women. Thanks to the GOP’s sensitive ears, we’ve all been reminded that the GOP’s war on women is real. We’ve also been reminded that it’s a legitimate concern for voters in this year’s election, not only in the presidential race, but also in congressional and statehouse races.

As a Democrat, I offer the Michigan GOP my sincere, eye-roll-free thanks.

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