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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Penguin 'family values' ruffle fundie feathers

These must be hard times for the "family values" crowd who have taken it upon themselves to try to control what the rest of us see and read. Unbridled sex explodes from the movie screens from sea to shining sea ... and even if you happen to find a PG-rated movie where two actors technically can't make the two-backed beast on camera, there are still all the references to sex, sexual innuendos and crude language. The television industry also has been possessed by sex-obsessed demons who, when they aren't going as far as they can to let viewers know that two characters are schtupping, feature gunfire and bloodshed. And don't even get them started on the type of filth in books and magazines.

Surprisingly, though, it's the field of children's literature that's most likely to get the would-be book-burners frothing at the mouth and itching for matches and a pile of books. It's as though they have given up preaching to the rest of us who can legally get into an R-rated movie, don't use a V-chip parental control feature in our televisions and can walk into the nearest 7-Eleven and buy a copy of Playboy without having to resort to seeking a hidden stash at the back of our parents' closet.

The latest target for the fundies is a book called And Tango Makes Three. It's the true story of two male emperor penguins named Roy and Silo in New York's Central Park Zoo who adopt an egg, hatch it and raise the Tango of the title.

Every year or so it's a new title that piques the wrath of the book-burners. Remember Heather Has Two Mommies, a book that made the point that not all kids come from the same sort of families? And then there was the book King and King about a prince who just wasn't into princesses and married a prince? Now it's Roy and Silo who have stirred up the conspiracy-minded "family values" crowd who see evidence of the dreaded homo-seck-shul agenda at work.

Efforts to remove or at least restrict access to the book are underway in a number of state, including - not surprisingly - here in Missouri.

Having read And Tango Makes Three (What can I say? I was bored during my last trip to Barnes and Noble), I have a hard time finding anything that might be objectionable in it. Not once do Roy and Silo offer to introduce little Tango to penguin sodomy. In the tradition of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie, Roy and Silo are "just good friends" who take it upon themselves to adopt and abandoned egg.

If those who object to the book had taken the time to watch the penguin family values documentary "March of the Penguins," they'd know that female emperor penguins leave the hatching of the eggs to the males. The females are gone for weeks at a time, leaving the males to care for the eggs.

Frankly, I'm surprised the fundies didn't picket "March of the Penguins" because it pushed a feminist agenda by depicting females having little or nothing to do with their eggs and leaving their obviously emasculated male partners at home playing Mr. Mom. But that's a whole different subject.

Typical of the radical right-wing response to And Tango Makes Three is this gem from an article in Georgia's The Brunswick News: "Whether it is And Tango Makes Three or other books that promote two parents of the same sex, it can easily be said that they are a challenge to Judeo-Christian values," said Debbie Brown, member of the First Baptist Church Social Concerns Committee. "A kindergarten or elementary school classroom or library is truly not the place to introduce such controversial issues."

So let's get this straight (so to speak), Debbie ... we should re-write all our science books to reflect that the animal kingdom follows the traditional Judeo-Christian model of a nuclear family consisting of one daddy who goes out and provides for his family, one mommy who stays at the nest, den or lair and lovingly cares for her offspring, and a whole bunch of little ones?

If Debbie and her ilk are offended by two male penguins raising a chick - and promoting that homo-seck-shul agenda - I sincerely hope that none of them go to movies. What must they think of the 2003 film "Second-Hand Lions"? I don't recall seeing them picketing theaters showing the film because perennial adolescent Haley Joel Osment was being raised by two "bachelor uncles" played by Michale Caine and Robert Duvall. Surely those two old guys must have been back at home humping while Haley Joel was out wondering in the cornfield!

Let's hope the Debbies of this world don't have a TV either. Otherwise they might stumble across a show like "Two and a Half Men" where Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer raise a young, impressionable boy. Why, it's a scandal!

And even if they exercise their parental authority and block that channel, what if their kids happen to find the "family-friendly" Nickelodeon channel and witness such perversions as the classic "My Three Sons" with Fred McMurray sharing parenting responsibilities with (ahem!) Uncle Charlie? And heaven forbid they should catch an episode of that baby-boomer favorite "A Family Affair" with Brian Keith's Uncle Bill and Sebastian Cabot's Mr. French so obviously burning with barely concealed lust for each other while raising Buffy, Jody and Cissy. Talk about an agenda! Do they realize that "french" is a code for oral sex? I won't even mention the obvious play on words with big sister Cissy's name!

To all the Debbie Brown's of the world, here's a thought for you: Lighten up. You make youselves look ridiculous. If you want to spend your time hunting for outlandish conspiracies, by all means go for it. But don't expect the rest of us to jump onto your bandwagon of paranoia.

And don't expect the rest of us to close our eyes to the fact that - whether you like it or not - all sorts of families exist. Not just among humans, but in the animal kingdom, too.