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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Small minds in the smallest state

Right-wing parents attempting to control what their children (and other parents' children) do or see or read or even think in public schools are nothing new. But sometimes the wingnuts are so outrageously over the top that I can't just let their rantings pass without comment.

Case in point: In Glocester, Rhode Island, a group of parents are wailing and gnashing their teeth over a field trip to see a movie. An optional field trip ... one which requires a permission trip from parents to attend.

And what, pray tell, is this licentious, lewd, socially unacceptable film so likely to warp the fragile sensibilities of the Ponaganset High School ninth graders? None other than Rent, the PG-13-rated film version of the long running Pulitzer and Tony-winning drama.

According to

"The lifestyles depicted in this movie are not the majority, not the lifestyles of 99.9 percent of the kids that live in these two towns," School Committee cochair Donna Mansolillo told a meeting of the committee this week.

Mansolillo then handed out a review of the film by the conservative group Focus on the Family that calls the movie "an in-your-face glorification of homosexuality and lesbianism."

Well, first off, Mrs. Mansolillo, if your little section of Rhode Island is 99.9 percent heterosexual, you're seriously short of homosexuals. Estimates of the gay population in the U.S. run anywhere from a conservative 15 million up to 30 million. Between 3 and 7 percent of the population is gay. So estimating 99.9 percent of your high school is straight means that Glocester is statistcally freakish.

Of course it's more logical to assume that with folks like Mrs. Mansolillo running around spouting off about "promoting homosexuality," all those under-counted gays and lesbians aren't as like to come out ... at least not around Mrs. M.

But, you know, Mansolillo and James Dobson's infamous hate group, Focus on the Family, might have a point about Rent glorifying homosexuality. Some little ninth grader could see the movie and think, "Gee, I want to be gay and live in poverty in New York. I want to get AIDS so I can be skinny and all my friends will care about me. And when I die from AIDS I want all my friends to get together and sing about me and dance. Yeah, that's for me!"

Is that what scares you about glorifying AIDS and promoting that big, mean old homosexual agenda, Mrs. M?

It's pretty scary stuff for kids to know that there are all sorts of people in the world besides the Taliborn-agains that seem to infest Glocester like a plague of locusts. There are people in the world that are different colors. There are people in the world who live in fancy houses as well as those who inhabit abandoned buildings. There are people in the world who love all different types and genders of people. And there are people in the world who die from all sorts of causes.

Fortunately, at least for those of us who value being able to think for ourselves and encouraging others to do likewise, the attempts by the wingnuts to force cancelation of the field trip failed. As another parent (one who apparently exercises that dangerous trait of thinking for herself) pointed out: "I don't see what the problem is. If you don't want your kid to go, don't sign the permission slip."

Ah, such straightforward logic! No doubt it's lost on Mrs. M and her ilk who refuse to rest as long as any kid in Glocester remains at risk of thinking or forming opinions for him or herself.

As "Seasons of Love," one of Rent's big show-stopping tunes puts it, there are "Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes that make up a year". But even one of those precious minutes spent listening to the likes of Mrs. Mansolillo is too much.