Can I opt for some forms of censorship and not others?
Do I get to pick and choose?
A high school in Western Massachusetts is feeling the heat for its decision to stage a production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” a satiric play by Paul Rudnick that retells the creation story of Genesis with gay and lesbian characters. According to school officials, pressure to cancel the production is coming mainly from out-of-state religious groups who are offended by a gay and lesbian slant on the sacred text. The school argues that the play is not anti-religion and is actually a serious exploration of faith.
I don’t know the play. If it makes a mockery of the Torah, my sacred book, or of Judaism, then, as a religious person, I would be offended by it. If it delves rather than mocks, if it sincerely re-imagines the story in a gay and lesbian context, then, as a Jew, I would call it midrash: a creative retelling, an extrapolation that spins out from the original words to expand and deepen our understanding and experience of the text.
I don’t know which of these the play is. When it comes to censorship, it doesn’t matter. As a writer whose work has recently been the target of a campaign of suppression, I understand only too well that even if the play offends me, even if I might question the school’s choice of this play (would they choose to mount a satire of Islam? Of Tibetan Buddhism?) since they have chosen to mount it, I must support it.
Of course I’m not unaware of the irony: in the Valley of the Politically Correct, some of the people who will support the school and the play will probably be the very same who call for suppressing my freedom of speech. My memoir, Sex Changes, tells a very personal story about the painful experiences my children and I endured with a transgendered former husband and father. For some, that is by definition a story that must not be told. Just as, for others, a gay version of a sacred religious text is by definition an offense.
Sometimes the fabulous stories are the ones we’d rather not hear.