Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

A history professor at North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota is suing the school because he was disciplined for displaying a poster of American Indian fighter General George Custer, reports Reuters

Jon Willand said he was reprimanded for hanging a recruiting poster depicting Custer and seeking soldiers to fight "militant Sioux." A student also complained after Willand commented to his class that Pocahontas, the 17th Century Indian princess, "did handsprings in the nude." 

"It wasn't meant to be offensive, it was just an offhand remark meant to perk attention," Willand said of the comment. "We've always had a problem with censorship, but with political correctness hitting full tide here within the last five or 10 years its gotten worse." 

The school has since forbade Willand from using "examples which are provocative or inflammatory" or "phraseology which does not manifest a clear concern for student sensibilities and which may promote student misunderstandings." 

(Thanks to Daniel P.) 

Quibbling over Question Marks 

Even before it has aired the show, ABC News is coming under attack for the working title — "A Matter of Choice?" — of a Nightline series on the lives of gays and lesbians in America that is scheduled to air in late September. 

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is concerned that the title "misrepresents the nature of sexual orientation and perpetuates the outdated but still harmful stereotype that one's sexual orientation is merely a simple choice," says GLAAD News Media Director Cathy Renna

Renna says "framing a five-part series in such a sensational way threatens to taint the experience for viewers." 

Mountaineers with Attitude 

Georgia Senator Zell Miller is taking umbrage at reports that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used the term ‘hillbilly’ to refer to members of Congress and staff, reports the Atlanta Constitution

Miller, who was raised in the impoverished north Georgia mountains and still keeps his home there, fired off a letter to Rumsfeld saying, "In this time of cultural sensitivity, we condemn anyone immediately when they used the 'N' word, and well we should. Well, the 'H' word is just as bigoted. 

"The mountaineer is the only person left in the ethnic shooting gallery that it is still all right to shoot at," Miller wrote. "We've removed all the others, but it's still all right to ridicule and make fun of and put down mountaineers." 

Rumsfeld responded with a note calling the reports that he used the term "totally untrue." 

Too Much Information 

The city of Honolulu was forced to remove descriptions of local churches from the "religion" section of its official web site after complaints from Hawaii Citizens for Separation of State and Church, reports the Honolulu Advertiser. To appease the group, the city also added a link to the Satanist Church of Hawaii to the site. 

Mitchell Kahle, president of the HCSSC said in a letter to Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris that the section is unconstitutional and should be removed. "Since a directory of churches would not be allowed within the halls of Honolulu Hale, it follows that such a directory should not be included on the pages of the City's 'official' Web site," she said. 

A spokeswoman for the city, Carol Costa, said the descriptions are not meant as an endorsement. "We're not deleting Jewish or Buddhist groups," she said. "The ones listed on the site are the ones who have contacted our Web master." 

Mixing Murals and Politics 

A controversial mural featuring a bullfighter on the wall of a high school in Inverness, Fla. may not be destroyed after all, reports the St. Petersburg Times

Officials at Citrus High School said in May that the mural would be removed following complaints from local resident Joseph Smith, who said it depicts a cruel blood sport that glamorizes animal torture and violence. But students, staff and community members protested the decision to eradicate the 12-year-old mural, which they see as part of Spanish culture. A committee set up by the school’s new principal ruled last week that the mural should stay. 

But Smith said he plans to appeal to the superintendent and the school board, and, if that fails, bus in activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to hold a demonstration against the mural and the cruel sport it depicts. 

Sons and Daughters 

A Liberal Canadian senator and a feminist group are not happy with one line in that country’s national anthem. They say girls are being excluded when Canadians sing, "True patriot love in all thy sons command," reports the CBC

Senator Vivienne Poy is mounting campaign to change the lyrics with the help of Frances Wright, a co-founder of the feminist Famous Five Foundation. Wright says O Canada! doesn't gives boys and girls equal recognition. 

"Canadians describe the male children as sons," she says. "And when we sing about Canada, we must enable both men and women, boys and girls to see themselves in the national anthem." 

Separation Anxiety 

Federal funding of a youth center in Middletown, Conn. that provides low- to moderate-income children with after-school programs is in danger because the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that discussions of the Bible and God were found to be taking place, reports the Middletown Press

HUD has warned the city that it must put a stop to any religious activities at the I Have a Friend Youth Center because the practice violates rules regarding the separation of church and state. 

Center director Barbara Miller said the activity under fire involves the Rev. Moses Harvill of the Cross Street AME Zion Church, who once a week comes to answer the children's questions. The primary focus of the center, however, is to give children a safe place to do homework. Students from a local high school tutor children at the center, and several teachers donate time there three days a week. 

Great Leaps of Logic 

The Washington Post, reporting from the annual Boy Scout jamboree in Virginia this year, is aghast to find scouts trading patches with the Confederate stars and bars and the phrase "Heritage, Not Hate" on them. 

The Post says the patches has raised concerns among Scouts of all races and had some discussing whether they should be banned or just ignored. 

"I guess I was more disappointed than anything else," said Walter Henry, a 17-year-old black Scout from Philadelphia. "I don't think the kids were bigoted or anything, but I guess I was just shocked that people would actually make a patch that really offends some people." 

The patch, says the Post, "spotlights a larger question that the Boy Scouts of America continues to struggle with: how to recruit and support minority groups in an organization that is still considered by many to be for whites." 

From the Central Servers: 

Brian C. in Corvallis, Ore. Writes: 

Yours is a truly valuable column for making people aware of attempts by the PC extremists to control what one can do and say these days. However, I was a little confused by your inclusion of the Proselytizing Memorials section in today's (7/27) column. I gather the intent is to show how "being sensitive" to atheist's concerns is an example of the said extremists, but it seems that was entirely irrelevant to the decision of the court and to the general issue here. 

I strongly believe that anyone should be allowed to put anything they want, even if offensive to others, on their own property - a proposition that is constantly under attack by zoning ordinances. But no one has the right to condemn a piece of public right-of-way for their own private shrine, regardless of the tragedy they have endured. Certainly someone who does can be no more in the right in using public land to express one's religious views than the atheist would be in using the same public land to express his disdain for such views. If their taking of public land is to be defended, then certainly you will also defend my staking out a roadside claim for a billboard or maybe an espresso stand. 

The point is, if you want to make a statement, sell a product, or even preserve some "green space," by all means do it - just do it on your own the land. 

Sandra M. writes: 

Under Walter S.'s logic, I should refuse to fly the American flag because it is a symbol of an authoritarian, imperialistic regime that forced the Confederate States back into the Union through conquest rather than democratic choice. Fortunately, I don't subscribe to that type of "logic". The Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, if you prefer) was over almost 150 years ago. Can we please stop fighting it? 

I don't fly the Confederate battle flag at my house. I have no intention of flying the battle flag or the stars and bars, any more than I want to fly the French fleur-de-lis. I also don't deny that those flags once flew over Texas. I think the Confederate battle flag should be left in the past where it belongs and not used by bigots of both races to fight an entirely new "civil" war. 

Crazy Horse writes of the San Francisco statues: 

How in hell can you call this PC excess? de Anza, along with Cortes the killer and all their lackey monks hiding behind the sword and the Word of God, were partly responsible for the genocide committed against all indigenous peoples of South, Central and North America. Why is this so hard to understand? Or is it that if it was acknowledged, then something would have to be done about it? White people weren't invited to this continent, they invaded. Is this really debatable? 

M. Fowler in Birmingham, Ala. writes: 

As to the expunging the name of President Bush's cat from the Presidential web Site: I have a friend whose first name is India, should she lay low? 

Phill L. says: 

I find it interesting that if I don't hire someone because of their race (or any of the other multitude of breakdowns) I am a bigot and subject to lawsuits, demonstrations, blockades, etc. However, if I do hire them because of it (at the expense to better qualified individuals) I am doing the right thing. Equality? Seems a bit skewed to me. 

Pete S. writes: 

Walter S.: the Confederate Battle Flag is no more a symbol of treason than the Stars & Stripes itself (remember that act of "treason" known as the Declaration of Independence?). A "Civil War" is one where two factions vie for control of a single government. That's not what happened in the US. The South attempted to secede (which was perfectly legal), and was thwarted by a tyrannous federal government that couldn't stand the thought of losing all that tax revenue. The Union had just as many slaves as the Confederacy. What's more, they captured and enslaved free Southern blacks as they advanced on Confederate territory, a most heinous and contemptible crime in the South. Bet you never learned that in History class.

Respond to the Writer