By Larry Ray Hafley
Under the headline above, Diane T. Byars, wrote the letter below to the editor of the Houston Chronicle.
On Martin Luther King Day, there was a parade in his honor down Main Street. . . . I stopped to enjoy the music and the parade. But what I saw was very upsetting.
There was a drill team of about 30 young, well- developed, prepubescent girls marching proudly along, carrying a sign identifying their school. The group stopped in front of me and performed their routine — which was very suggestive. I am not a prude and even several people standing near me also were aghast. Their outfits were very revealing — they left nothing to the imagination.
Later, I looked the school name up in the telephone book and was shocked to find that it is an elementary school in the Houston Independent School District. That my tax dollars were used to finance this kind of exhibitionism is appalling to me.
Someone in authority . . . has shown very poor judgment. Someone chose their outfits and got them approved by others in authority. And what about the mothers of these girls? I have two daughters, and I would never let them wear outfits like that.
With teenage pregnancies and single motherhood for 12 and 13 year olds so prevalent, this sort of thing seems to practically encourage inappropriate behavior. With this behavior condoned by those in authority, these young girls are being sent a clear message that early acting out sexually is OK, that teen-age pregnancy is OK, and that dropping out of school to become mothers is OK.
These young girls will never have the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty if they choose that route. Shame on the school’s administration that dropped the ball here. The parade sponsors don’t intend to promote this (sexual promiscuity, fornication, unwanted pregnancy, LRH), but they might do well to monitor the groups included in their parade so this sort of things does not recur.
I think this is very important. I am afraid for the future of these young people in such a permissive environment.
Amen! And Amen!
What is your first impression of the letter above? Do you find it hard to believe that such a letter appeared in one of the nation’s top ten newspapers? Me, too. I trust that you rejoice that there are still those in this world who will speak up and speak out against lascivious behavior, indecent, immodest apparel, and who will insist that such lewd dress and demeanor never occurs again. Can you say, “Amen,” to that?
“However, While I Agree In Principle . . .”
From criticisms we have heard lately from some of our brethren, I wonder if we might assail the lady’s wonderful words with these curious and singular objections.
First, who does this lady think she is? Who appointed her to be our civic “watchdog”? She is probably part of a group of “snarling curs” who have a “pack dog mentality,” always ready to bite and devour those who oppose their divisive, hidden agendas. Surely, as she herself admits, those in authority did not “intend to promote” the alleged evils to which she refers, so what right does she have to bark against our well intentioned educators? She speaks of appointing monitors. What next — a “moral-monitor” civic police unit?
Second, who gave this lady the authority to define what is sexually “suggestive” and what is impure “exhibition- ism”? Where would she draw the line? How much clothing would be enough to satisfy her definition of modesty? What kind of movement of the body would not be suggestive and exhibitionist? Is she going to provide lists and guidelines for acceptable parade dress and display? If not, she should forbid such things in her own parades, but she should allow others to conduct their own parades as they choose.
If this lady is allowed to define what is suggestive and alluring, and if we allow her to change our public parades, what will we say when she goes after our schools’ cheer- leaders? Before we allow her to set public moral standards, we had better consider what her guidelines will do to the prom and other school dances. If we do not stop this lady here, what else will she want to regulate — the attire and behavior at our public swimming pools?!
Third, each school district is an independent, autonomous unit. Diane Byars has no right to preach her opinions about what constitutes modest dress and decorum. That is for each local district to determine. She may do what she wants with her own family, but she has no right to make laws for other local bodies.
Fourth, since she says that someone “has shown very poor judgment,” she admits that it falls into the category of judgment and, hence, is not a matter of “law and gospel.” Again, lady Byars is usurping a role which neither God nor man has given her.
Fifth, observe the “negative, judgmental tone” of her letter. It is filled with words of harsh criticism and cold, cutting condemnation. Does she not know that she can catch more flies with honey than she can with vinegar? Her letter is a good example of what is causing many to “tune out” what we are saying. Folks will not listen to voices of moderation and to “positive” appeals for godly living because they have been “turned off” by the wild rantings and scare tactics of women like Diane T. Byars. Perhaps if she had used less caustic, abusive language, her plea would be better received.
Sixth, why did the lady “go public” with her complaints? She should have gone privately to whomever was in charge and sat down with them and expressed her reservations. Did she even bother to pick up the phone and call someone in authority? We know, by her own statement, that she went to the “telephone book.” Why did she feel the need to make a “private” city parade into a public scandal? If she loved the school district and those in authority, she would have gone to them in private and would never have slandered those good, civic minded people before the world.
Seventh, she writes as though she is glad she witnessed the parade just so she could have something and someone to “write up.” People like her are just trying to make a name for themselves as “great defenders” of public morality and as “saviors” of the civil state! Maybe she is trying to be appointed to the staff of Guardian Of Public Purity.
Eighth, it is apparent that lady Byars has too much time on her hands. If she would spend more time helping those “12 and 13 year olds” she so sharply condemned, perhaps she would not have time to watch a parade and pass judgment on others. It is amazing that she has time to see a parade, write condemnatory letters, and seek to regulate an independent school district’s policy. She needs to take care of her “two daughters” and let the rest of us raise our own.
Ninth, rather than honoring Martin Luther King, this lady mars his special day by a “trash and burn” policy. Some people seek to exalt themselves by tearing others down. The dear lady needs to learn that one cannot honor a great man by throwing hypercritical stones at his sincere, struggling disciples.
Tenth, it is evident that our lady critic is trying to “write a creed” for each local, independent school district to follow. Who appointed her “Pope”?! She is trying to run the civic- hood. While we agree with her in principle, we do not think she should write public policy and expect the rest of us to conform to it or else be burned at the stake. Of course, she is free to write letters and question the behavior of others, but her letter is creedal in nature. It says, “Conform to my parade style, or get out.” Her creed shows she is trying to “head up” and run her own parade.
Finally, perhaps we ought to call a five year moratorium against all parades. Maybe communities would be better off if we canceled all school board meetings, ceased to publish school district papers, and did away with all public teachers for a period of five years. (Note: It is strange that those who cry the loudest about local control and autonomy and who protest against those who would try to tell others what to do are themselves not the least bit hesitant or squeamish to tell everyone [every school, magazine, and church] what might be best for the next five years!)
(This last section does not express the author’s view. Any apparent reference to living men and current events is perhaps hypothetical and probably coincidental.)