'Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" features scenes of lesbian sex.
"The S.C. General Assembly: A Political Farce" features scenes of legislators debating what college students should and shouldn't read.
Which scenes are scarier?
The S.C. House voted in February to cut $52,000 in funding to the College of Charleston because it included Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" as a summer reading assignment.
The S.C. Senate finally reached a compromise Tuesday to restore that money. Now a House-Senate conference committee must sort out the measures' differences.
That Senate resolution was crafted by Sen. Larry Grooms, the Bonneau Republican who was especially indignant last month when an off-Broadway production of the "Fun Home" play came to the C of C. Passed via voice vote, it would redirect the $52,000 to the College for reading programs "related to instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study and devotion to American institutions and ideals."
The same meaningless mandate would be applied to USC-Upstate, which lost $17,000 in that House bill for assigning "Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio" and scheduling the play "How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less."
Of course, the College of Charleston and USC-Upstate already offer instruction about our nation's glorious founding documents.
Maybe some of our state lawmakers need a constitutional refresher course of their own. Maybe they could even memorize this First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
OK, so our state legislators aren't members of Congress.
Not yet, anyway.
But they aren't college professors, either.
Who makes the call?
Grooms dismissed the First Amendment concern Tuesday by proclaiming on the Senate floor: "I don't agree that taxpayer-funded pornography equates to free speech."
So what if you don't agree with Grooms' view of what is and isn't "pornography" - and what reading assignments taxpayers should and shouldn't fund?
No, the Legislature isn't engaging in downright book banning. However, it is pointing a funding-cutting knife at colleges over their reading choices.
And no, that doesn't serve any truly conservative purpose.
Now add these history - and current-events - lessons to the constitutional review:
South Carolina once prohibited distribution and possession of abolitionist writings, including Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." They were even seized before delivery to addressees at the Charleston Post Office and, in some cases, burned.
The folks running Germany from 1933-45 were especially avid burners of verboten reading material.
Book banning endures in 2014. George Orwell's "Animal Farm," a kids' book that's much more in its withering allegory on the inherent lie of communism, is prohibited in Cuba and North Korea.
Having a copy of the Bible and "The Diary of Anne Frank" can get you into serious trouble in some Islamic nations.
Back home with "Fun Home": I bought the critically acclaimed 2006 best-seller Wednesday morning at the College of Charleston Book Store. On my quick dash through the "graphic memoir" (sort of a long comic book), it didn't read - or look - like "pornography." Only five of the 232 pages had, er, "love" scenes.
Sure, I'm an admittedly jaded judge. Still, as dirty books (comic or otherwise) go in our increasingly sordid popular culture, "Fun Home" is a relatively tame, bittersweet story of a young lesbian dealing with her dad's demise - and what prompted it.
A river runs through it
But hey, to each his - or her - own reading tastes.
For me, the best comic book remains 1961's "Gorgo No. 7." From its hot-blooded Cold War cover: "Gorgo Fights The Reds" in "Menace From The Sea."
For an aging pal of mine who's a devoted expert in the genre, the best comic book is 1963's "Fantastic Four Annual No. 1." From its cover: "At Last! Sub-Mariner Finds His Long-Lost Race! And So Begins The Most Epic Battle Of All Time!"
My favorite novel remains Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Too bad so many schools don't teach that so-very-American masterpiece because of its frequent (but accurate for its setting) use of the "n" word. That's a misguided aversion to a grand saga that still packs a powerful anti-racism punch.
Also misguided: those who think they can reverse the rapidly rising tide of Americans' acceptance of homosexuality.
So please, state lawmakers, stop wasting your - and our - time on that new Lost Cause.
And stop putting off the long-overdue mission of fixing our dangerously decaying roads and bridges.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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