Cannot agree

By Ric James, Sterling

Feb. 23, 2005 — I have been having a thoughtful discussion with myself after reading both an email from Eugene Delgaudio and your editorial on Feb. 9 regarding the performance of “Postcards from Paradise” at Stone Bridge HS. It’s been a long debate as I’ve thought about it from both angles. I certainly don’t like it, but I’m afraid I can’t agree with your position on the matter. I am not a preacher, and I’m not preaching. As a citizen of the country and county, I have not only a right but a responsibility to engage in the debate over the direction our society will turn. That’s why I wrote to the School Board with my concerns and why I am writing to you now.

The issue is not, as it is being painted by some, one of a bunch of uptight, bible-thumping bigots trying to outlaw sexual preference. It is not about censorship. It is, in spite of assurances to the contrary, about the use of a public high school drama performance to advocate a specific political message that is very, very much in debate and definitely not decided. When and where did it go from being a drama performance to advocacy? Because two boys engaged in a performance designed to convince the audience they’d just kissed each other? No, not at all. That was a performance. It was when one of those two boys turned to the audience and made an accusation that can, in no way, be proven. It is an accusation almost guaranteed to be inaccurate by its sweeping nature and, given the content of the accusation, nearly as guaranteed to produce offense. The script and direction turned an audience of spectators into extras in the cast, forcing every one of them into the performance. Good conduct and common courtesy forced them to sit, quietly, while being accused of being something I am confident a number of them are absolutely not. As a bonus, they got to pay for the privilege of attending and all of us got to pay for the performance. You said you didn’t elect our public officials to be your social conscience. Nor did I. I also don’t pay taxes to support this kind of action from our public high schools, but I’m being told to just calm down about it.

I wrote to every member of the school board about my concerns. Only one, James (sic) Geurin, replied. He contends that the school board isn’t the party to whom we should be directing our commentary and concerns. His suggestion is that Superintendent Hatrick and Principal Person of Stone Bridge are the two who should be. Only I didn’t elect Dr. Hatrick nor Mr. Person to their positions. I elected members of the School Board who both hired the top echelon of school officials and also control the budget. I would submit that the Board, as you suggested, is exactly who should be hearing of our concerns.

Your editorial says that you doubt such a performance will be allowed in the county again. Perhaps you’re right. But it was allowed once and we should know the reasons why it was. I look forward to the day when these students will have not only the logical tools to debate the political issues of our day but also the background and facts to do so in the context of being a citizen in a diverse society. The drama stage of a high school isn’t the place for that.

[Originally published in Loudoun Easterner, February 23, 2005]

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