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This is the third update to a developing story I’ve been following for a while now. See the first two parts here and here. The following letter was received from Ed Payton, a member of the Union School District’s Board who voted in favor of keeping “Buster’s Sugartime” on shelves at the school’s libraries, a move which is now making national news. The e-mail was sent from the celebrityattractions.com domain, which appears to be a Payton family business in Tulsa that includes a theater.

Here is the message I received this morning:

This email is being sent to everyone who communicated their opinion to me regarding the recent Union Board of Education decision about the book, ‘Buster’s Sugartime’.

This process reminded me how fortunate we are at Union to have Administrators who clearly demonstrated their commitment to our students and their respect for Union parents.

I was one of three board members who voted to retain the book in our library. I did so because, after careful consideration, I did not believe it was a book advocating any illegal behavior, or particular lifestyle. Rather, it was a book that provided an opportunity for new readers to improve their reading skills, while expanding their understanding of the world around them.

I would like to correct a perception expressed by a few of you who made remarks in your email about the parents who request the book’s removal (‘homophobic’, ‘narrow-minded’, ‘censors’, etc). From my direct experience with these parents during the hearing, those criticisms do not apply. The parents were reasonable individuals, who presented their concerns in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Their concerns did not appear to emanate from a religious or political agenda, but rather from practical parenting. They felt it inappropriate for a kindergartener [sic] to be able to check out a book which contains references to a same sex couple living in a civil union when such a union is illegal in Oklahoma. While I disagree with that position, I can still appreciate their concernn [sic]. Nothing in their presentation indicated that these individuals are homophobic, book banners or book burners. In fact, they stated that this book would be totally appropriate in any state where civil unions or gay marriages were recognized.

If we are ever to move beyond the rancor and raised voices that too often accompany discussions related to this and other ‘hot-button’ issues, we must all learn the respect, civility and good manners that were exhibited by the Union Administrators and the Parents in this situation.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I am more convinced than ever that the Board made the correct decision, and am equally convinced that the kindergartner [sic] in this matter is fortunate to have parents as engaged as these two.

Ed. L. Payton

The following is a response that I filed with Ed by e-mail:

Hi Ed,

First off, thanks for voting to keep the book in the Union school
libraries. I’m glad that you did the right thing. Second, thank you for writing and providing those of us who could not attend the Board Meeting with insight into the thoughts behind your votes.

I agree with you wholeheartedly where you stated that we are fortunate that the Board has folks on it now who listened to students, teachers and others who commented on the item in question. A few years ago, there is a good chance we might not be where we are today and the school district might find itself on the business end of an expensive lawsuit. I’m glad to see that we have made such progress, it gives me hope for a state that some consider hopeless.

However, I’d like to point out that while the parents may indeed have presented their concerns in a professional and respectful manner, the concern they presented was indicative of a homophobic point of view. They were asking you and your fellow board members to remove from view a display of homosexuality that they found offensive for no reason other than the fact that it was homosexual in nature. That, by definition, is homophobia.

There are two types of homophobes: those who are uneducated and scream at the top of their lungs about how the sodomites must be removed from society, that they are going to hell, ad nauseum. The second group is quite educated and presents their homophobia in a much less obnoxious manner. Its the kinder, gentler homophobia and its much more dangerous because those people are smart enough to pass their homophobia off as
a legitimate concern. It looks to me like the parents in this
situation fall squarely into the second group.

The legality or lack thereof of same-sex unions in Oklahoma is
irrelevant to the matter at hand. This is an attempt to tie
homosexuality to an illegal act in an effort to distract from the
issue at hand while demonizing homosexuals. Our Supreme Court has already spoken on this issue and they were quite clear. Homosexuality is not illegal and the people who practice it (regardless of whether folks believe its a choice or the way they are) are not second class citizens. They are entitled to the same rights and the same exposure in the media as everyone else, including the books found in public school libraries.

Not all viewpoints are equal and some are just plain wrong. How can one tell the difference? Simply substitute “same sex” and “homosexual” (and other similar terms) with “mixed race couple” and “African American”. If this same parent came to your Board and asked for this book to be removed because it depicted an African American and a Cacasion being together, would the parents have even been given the time of day by the District? I highly doubt that they would have.

This is how to look at something and find out whats really behind the concern. People often say one thing while doing and meaning another. Its human nature to be manipulative and use false fronts to achieve our goals in life. So were the parents in this case really worried just about protecting kids from indecent material, or making sure that their kids never learn that homosexuality exists and has a legitimate place in our society?

If you have further questions about my comments here, or the ones I filed initially, please feel free to call me anytime at 405.886.5095. As one of the thousands of homosexuals who call Oklahoma my home, I’m always happy to reach out to our elected and appointed leadership to increase understanding of and on issues that are important to me.

It is interesting to note that because of the manner in which the e-mail was sent, I was able to ascertain the e-mail address of each recipient of the letter.  There were a mere 31 people that Ed sent his letter to. So, if he sent it to everyone who e-mailed a comment and since its unlikely there was time for replies to be sent in by mail or delivered personally to the Board, it looks like only those who e-mailed were heard from by the board. The Board did not accept in-person comments at its meeting.

A mere 31 letters were enough for this district to get the message loud and clear. That further assumes that all of the letters were in favor of our position, which its unlikely that they all were. So in this case, the time 31 people took to write a letter to their elected officials, forever changed Oklahoma for the better. I’m proud to know at least two of those people personally, as I recognize their e-mail addresses amongst the recipients.

I’m very proud of our community right now, thanks for everyone who took the time to write in. It very clearly did make a difference!

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The blizzard of e-mails to the Union School District produced results this evening, as the district voted to keep copies of “Buster’s Sugartime,” by Marc Brown on shelves. Special thanks to the fine folks at Oklahomans for Equality for getting the word out about this.

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Just got the following urgent message from Oklahomans for Equality, I’m passing it on here as a public service. Lets go, go, go – we only have a couple of hours to get e-mails in!

Oklahomans for Equality is monitoring a possible book banning issue developing in the Union Public School District of Tulsa County.

The book is “Buster’s Sugartime” by author Marc Brown which was on an episode of the “Postcards from Buster” series on PBS.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Union Public Schools Education Service Center located at 8506 E. 61st St. The board will decide whether to remove the book or possibly limit access to it. This will not be a public forum where people can speak. No public comments will be allowed.

The Board of Education is addressing the situation after a parent brought their concerns to the district’s Materials Review Committee. The committee chose to keep the book on library shelves. The parent was opposed to the depiction of a child with two parents of the same gender. The parent has appealed the committee’s decision to the Union Public School Board.

Nancy McDonald president of PFLAG Tulsa says ” Our society embraces all kinds of families. Those “families” take on many different combinations such as, opposite sex, single parent, grandparents, same-sex and those families can be made up of different races, religions, cultures, ages, and sexual orientation. It is so important that young children have opportunities to see “their” families displayed in reading materials, movies, plays, print, and to know that the most important thing is that they are loved, cared for, and valued no matter what their family structure is.”

Please contact the Union Public School Board Secretary Beverly Thummel by emailing thummel.beverly@unionps.org. Your email will be shared with the Union School Board so be polite and respectful in your tone. If you are in the District 9 Independent Union School District please include that in your correspondence. Please refrain from calling the District’s office.

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Most thinking people in the United States (all ten of them) now admit that Wal-Mart is the great Satan of retailing. And even some of the less intelligent people on our planet realize it as well. So then why is Wal-Mart still here, why is it still expanding, why haven’t we gotten rid of this disease that plagues us? Its simple, really. People are selfish. They know what shopping at Wal-Mart does and they don’t really care.

So what is so bad about Wal-Mart? And why is shopping there so bad? And most importantly, why are the people who shop at Wal-Mart so bad?

First off, just try going to the hardware department and finding anyone who knows anything about hardware. You won’t find it. In fact, you’ll be lucky to find anyone who can even tell you where something is. While you are in the hardware department, try to find a plunger made in the United States. Wal-Mart is partly responsible for the increasing rampant stupidity that infects our country.

    Wal-Mart has destroyed good brands that made quality products – like Rubbermaid – which cost a good many jobs that paid well by constantly forcing US jobs overseas. You can learn more about this by watching Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Our country has lost hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs with good benefits and retirement plans, to be replaced by low paying dead end jobs at Wal-Mart with no benefits and no retirement.

    Speaking of benefits and retirement plans, do you know what Wal-Mart tells its employees to do when and if they complain about not being able to afford medical treatment? Wal-Mart must give them a discount on their insurance of something, right? Nope. Instead, Wal-Mart sends them to the welfare office where our tax dollars provide – at no cost to Wal-Mart – health coverage, housing, food and retirement.

    We all know the crimes of Wal-Mart. They have been extensively covered in the media and elsewhere. I started to rehash them here, but there is no need. Those who continue to say “Hey, what’s so bad about Wal-Mart?” are simply burying their heads in the sand so that they don’t have to face the fact that their continued patronage of Wal-Mart is ruining our country.

    Bottom line: If you shop at Wal-Mart, you are a selfish prick. When you shop at Wal-Mart, every dollar you spend screams “I want my plastic crap from China for a few pennies less than anywhere else, and I don’t give a damn how many people die, lose their jobs, get thrown out of their homes or get sold into slavery to make it happen. I also don’t give a damn how bad my country gets screwed, because I am more important, my needs wants are above all and I am what matters – all that matters.”

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    Most people with any intelligence whatsoever will admit to you that our public schools are failing their students miserably. Every day, students graduate ignorant of how our country works, how laws are made and how to drive, among many other things. And just because you have a degree on your wall, doesn’t mean that you’re any smarter. A study released in 2005 by the U.S. Department of Education shows that only 25% of college graduates were “proficiently literate,” that is, “using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.” More discussion on this study can be found here.

    One of the things many people seem to be ignorant about is the name of the country they live in. They seem to erroneously refer to this country with one word: America. Yet – and I know this may come as a huge surprise to some of you – there is no country called “America”. Not now, not in the past – never! It never existed. EVER! Yet everyday, we hear people refer to this mythical place. We also have TV shows named after it like American Morning. People refer to those who live in the United States as “Americans”. Folks refer to American universities, American film, American celebrities, American culture and on and on. And then there are Native Americans. And on Oklahoma’s license plates, its used in the state’s latest marketing slogan “Native America”. When will the lunacy stop?

    The country “America” does not exist! And I blame the public schools for this incompetence because they provide children at early ages with books, usually titled “American History”. And while there is a land mass known as the Americas (comprised of North America and South America) these books almost always cover United States history under the title of American History. No wonder kids think they live in America. These are people (textbook authors) should know better! They should know that children are impressionable when young and when you fill their little heads with incorrect information they will never unlearn it.

    Its called The United States of America. Or just United States would also be acceptable. But not just America because that refers to a country that is not found on any map, or any globe and instead refers collectively to two entire continents. Lets try to be intelligent for once and use the correct name to refer something.

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