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Keep an eye on your freedoms

Last week was a vacation week. Hmmm. Multiple household chores, ten blog posts, two classes at Loyola, a guest appearance at Professor Stacy Spaulding’s new media class at Towson University, and a little chat on evil at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson. Oh, and I read eight murder mysteries. Back to the paragraph factory tomorrow.

Took to my bed yesterday afternoon to fight off the first cold of the season rather than post here. Had I posted, I would have mentioned that yesterday was the anniversary of the day on which the Congress approved the Bill of Rights and sent those amendments to the states for ratification.

Our constitutional rights are admirable in theory but touchy in practice. For example, Park51, the Islamic center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York, opened last week. You will recall the torrent of opposition and ill-disguised anti-Muslim prejudice from people operating under the impression that freedom of religion is restricted to religious beliefs and practices they agree with. Fortunately, others rose above ignorance and bigotry, so perhaps the First Amendment still means something.

As we take notice of our freedoms, we should also be aware that this is Banned Books Week, when we are reminded of all the petty authorities who attempt to restrict access to information to control how people, particularly students, think and understand the wider world.

For my contribution to Banned Books Week, I would like to pay a short tribute to Raymond and Marian Early McIntyre. My parents, recognizing my voracious appetite for reading, made sacrifices and efforts to get me books, which we not in plentiful supply at the time I was growing up. (There was no public library in Fleming County, Kentucky, until 1964.) And not once did they ever make the slightest attempt to control or restrict what I read. I was grateful to them then, and I honor their memory.

One last item for this post: Today’s word of the week is quixotic. I hope that it is not quixotic to uphold the Bill of Rights and to advocate the freedom to read.



Posted by John McIntyre at 9:32 AM | | Comments (12)


Thank you.It's not everyday one meets Atticus Finch:)

I persist in pronouncing it kee-HO-tic, despite its common and accepted anglicized pronouncing. When well-meaning friends try to correct me, I merely shake my head in pity and politely change the subject. Perhaps I'm just tilting at windmills.


How ironic that one who presents himself as a champion of the First Amendment persists in labeling as ignorant bigots and racists anyone who DARED to exercise his or her OWN First Amendment right to suggest that the ground zero mosque was an insensitive, ill-conceived idea. And THAT was always the claim: not that it didn't have the right to be there, as much as you and MSNBC attempted to frame the discussion otherwise.

Never mind that two-thirds of the country and even a majority of New Yorkers opposed the mosque. Never mind that Obama's approval ratings are in the toilet. This is the result of ignorant racism! Saying that is easier that defending something on its supposed merits, isn't it?

Nothing ironic at all. I have never challenged the rights of bigots and racists to express their views, since they enjoy exactly the First Amendment rights that I do.

As to that two-thirds majority, I will accept Gary K.'s invitation to never mind. As he knows perfectly well, the point of the First Amendment is that religious expression is not up for a vote.

Although there can be rational discussions about where to place a mosque, until today, I hadn't thought of an inappropriate place for a book. Please don't take your Bible into the mosque with first giving us, your friends and followers, an opportunity to wish you farewell.

Tim, I'm with you on the pronunciation. (Go ahead--call me effeminate. I don't care.)

Devout Muslims would have no problem with anyone taking a Bible into a mosque. They believe that the Old and New Testaments are the revealed Word of God and that Jesus was a true prophet of God.

Getting back to the original subject, I have always been grateful to my mother, as you to yours, for believing that a child could never be ruined by reading a book - no matter how beyond their years. As a preteen, I read pretty much all of the books my mother had acquired from the post-war BOMC, as well as an entire set of Harvard Classics.

Hi, City Redux--long time no see. My mother was much like yours--which probably helps to explain our presence here in Wordville. I worked my way through my father's collected Twain and Dickens, as well as a mixed bag of "classics." Plus weekly visits to the library, of course. But they would only allow me to check out 5 books per week--not nearly enough!

Somewhat more accurately, Muslims believe that the Old and New Testaments are the *badly edited* word of God. For example, in their view it was not Jesus who died on the cross: they accept the Ascension but deny the Crucifixion.

My mother believed in strict censorship of what children were allowed to read. It became a matter of rebellion and I'll-show-you.

(A bit of - probably boring - personal history: My mother's childhood home had very few books beside the Bible. Her mother raised 6 kids with a woodstove and outdoor plumbing. I do not know how she washed clothes but she wasn't much of a reader even if she'd had the time. Her grandmother, who lived with them, never learned to read. My father's parents were voracious readers and all 6 of their boys were allowed to read anything, anytime, in the hopes, I suspect, that it would keep them quiet for awhile. My mother used to rant whenever she found a book under my mattress or in the back of my closet that I would turn out "just like your father" who worked 2 jobs, turned his paychecks over to her and looked after her family and his own extended family as well as our household andneighborhood. I never got the gist of that except that he was VERY opinionated and outspoken and was known to argue with the preacher.)

The library in the next town over (we didn't have our own library) made me bring a note from my mother for pretty much everything but Mary Poppins. I became a master forger. By the time I got to High School, I was like the Godmother.

Forbidden Fruit, gang. Forbidden Fruit.

Eve, I didn't find your personal history boring in the slightest. It's very interesting to think about how we all develop our particular talents.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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