This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, February 25, 1998

February 25, 1998 - Punch And Judy

Last summer my wife and I enjoyed a visit from her English cousins (2nd cousin once removed, to be technical). Hamish is a consulting engineer. His wife is a teacher. As we talked about our countries, Hamish told me that two things really surprised him about America.

The first was that you can't just order a meal here. You have to be interrogated. If you ask for English muffins, the waitress demands to know if you want multi-grain, sour dough or plain. If you order salad, you have to choose among 8 dressings. If you want a cup of coffee, God help you.

The second thing that surprised him was fundamentalists -- particularly when he heard about attempts to remove books from libraries, or movies from schools. "We just don't have that sort of thing in England," he sniffed.

Well, Hamish has just sent me some newspaper clippings. The first story (written by Tom Leonard) begins, "A Punch and Judy book has been withdrawn from a public library service following claims that Mr Punch's 'sickening violence' could corrupt children."

The article goes on, "The book -- which follows the traditional plot -- recounts how the puppet tricks a policeman into putting his head into a noose and hangs him, coshes Judy and bangs their baby's head to get it to go to sleep."

The article notes that the 14 year old book had illustrations clearly showing the characters as puppets, not people. Nonetheless, the book was withdrawn by the Wilshire county council "pending a review of its suitability."

"The decision won support from the Police Federation, which said the book 'sent completely the wrong message.'" Puppeteers (particularly, members of the Punch and Judy Fellowship), however, described it as "political correctness gone mad."

It gets better. A Member of Parliament swore to look into it. The chairman of the council's libraries and museums committee issued a formal apology to the family that made the complaint.

The next clipping, dated two days later, was a letter to the editor, beginning, "SIR -." It's so good, I'll quote the whole thing. "As a child, my daughter (now a second generation Punch and Judy performer) was frightened by the stories and pictures in the Ladybird books which retold the Greek myths and legends. At the time, I did nothing about it but in retrospect realise that the correct course of action would have been to seek an apology from the library, seek an MP's promise to mount an investigation and seek a statement from the Police Federation on the dangers to law and order implicit in a classical education. Common sense must have prevented me at the time." The author was Glyn Edwards of "Far Forest, Worcs."

Finally, 6 days after the second article -- presumably after an eight day investigation, came a final notice: "A Punch and Judy book was back on the shelves in Wilshire libraries yesterday .... [The] chairman of the county council's libraries and museums committee said, 'This book stems from our cultural heritage and we have to draw a line to prevent political correctness damaging our long held traditions.'"

Punch and Judy, incidentally, have been popular in England since about 1660. According to my home encyclopedia, "The ill-tempered Punch, who continually quarrels with his wife, Judy, and other people, is said to represent the spirit of revolt that exists in human beings." Kids find it funny.

So it seems that there are still family resemblances among cousins on either side of the pond. I expect that when it's our turn to visit Hamish, we'll be able to go out for a good cup of coffee.

Maybe a double decaf with a dash of mocha, no cream.

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