A couple of days ago I read a very interesting article in JP, the title is 
“Literature boosts Gus Dur’s spirit of pluralism” written by Setiono Sugiharto. 
In short, the article tells us that reading literature can maintain the idea of 
pluralism proposed by – one of pluralism scholars in Indonesia – Gus Dur.

The article reminded me of one class I joined when I was in college “American 
Multiculturalism”. The professor assigned us to read various kinds of literary 
works – mostly short stories and poems – written by many American authors from 
different tribes, such as Native American (e.g. Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Yellow 
Woman”), African American (e.g. Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat”), Mexican American 
(e.g. Sandra Cisneros’ “Woman Hollering Creek”), Chinese American (e.g. Amy 
Tan’s “Two Kinds”), until one poet who was born in Indonesia, Li Young Lee; we 
discussed his poem “Persimmons”. We absolutely also read works written by white 
American, such as Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where are you going? Where have you 
been?” The main objective of this class is to provide the students how rich 
American culture is, and of course also to respect those so-called marginalized 
authors’ works. America is indeed multicultural.

Going back to Indonesia. After the fall of New Order regime, we can find more 
various kinds of books – read it novels – written by authors from different 
ethnic as well as religious groups. It means Indonesian people are more exposed 
to their own country’s multiculturalism. (However, this ‘freedom’ has recently 
been stained by the banning of books. SBY followed his predecessor’s way to 
maintain his position?)

However, we must not forget that in Indonesia books are still considered very 
expensive so that not all people can afford to buy books. Besides, the interest 
in reading among Indonesian people is still very low. Not to mention if 
teachers at school do not read a lot. How can they suggest what books to read 
by their students? Moreover, if those teachers are not ‘plural’, or do not 
respect multiculturalism.

Absolutely Setiono Sugiharto’s idea is very good. The implementation needs work 
hard. Schools as well as public libraries must provide more various kinds of 
books. Teachers of ‘Bahasa and Sastra Indonesia’ must increase their readings 
so that they can suggest their students which books to read to increase their 
awareness of the existence of multiculturalism in Indonesia. Media must help by 
providing articles written using point of views which support pluralism.

PT56 21.51 24.01.10

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