Well, that didn’t take long.
I put out my first post in months, or so, and the universe put out its demand mere hours later: there’s a board meeting for our county library today, and word on the street is that a woman will be present to demand that a book be removed from the shelves.
I don’t know what woman, although I’ve been quick to make a lot of suppositions about her affiliations, but the book she has in mind for banning is a graphic novel called Gender Queer.
I’d never heard of this book before yesterday, and then I heard about it twice: it appears to be on a list of books circulating among the far right, which sadly has become the mainstream right, which even more sadly is about diminishing rights altogether, that should be targeted for book bans.
So I’m going to make some guesses here, and maybe all of them are wrong. I’m going to guess the Gunnison protestor did not encounter this book personally on a shelf in the library. Perhaps she spent multiple hours matching a national list to anything she could find to offend her sensibilities listed in the local catalogue.
Maybe I’m wrong; perhaps her child checked it out and she found it under their bed and is completely horrified by the implications for her own family. Instead of processing it internally, she is lashing out because obviously there must be blame to go around, and even more obviously her child was completely normal until reading this radical book.
Or maybe — and this is where I have made suppositions about her affiliations — as a good Christian crusader and defender of the Right Way of Life, she sees it as her noble mission to save all the rest of us from our wicked, wanton selves, because without her personal guidance the rest of us will lead bad lives, infected by the cooties that fly much more freely than covid germs all around a library that would contain such a book.
Others are less concerned about the book bans themselves — there is, after all, a thing called the internet, and several people have pointed out they’d be delighted to see a teenager reading any book instead of spending the day on Tik Tok — and more about the intimidation tactics that the book bans are leading to.
There are a lot of people commenting on book bans these days as these same right-wing people — who often profess to be more patriotic than the rest of us — lead us down the Thought Police path the Founding Fathers clearly always intended, as stated in their founding documents that I’m equally sure all these folks have read. I myself read a column this morning by a woman who left this sort of totalitarianism in Iran, where one of her students was executed, presumably for agitating for a freer country, and she is shocked to see the same tendrils drifting into a country that supposedly cherishes freedom above all.
One state — Wyoming? — wants to imprison librarians who offer LGBTQ materials to patrons. The Virginia governor has set up a snitch line to rat out any teacher who offends anyone’s sensibilities. Texas has removed hundreds of books from shelves on one legislator’s 850-title list, presumably not a single one of which he’s even looked at beyond the title. Oklahoma wants to ban books with sex in them, which might include Dick and Jane, who only got to their reading pages because Mommy and Daddy had sex. Someone’s list somewhere even includes a book about seahorse mating rituals and the basic information that the male seahorse carries the babies to term.
I don’t get this proud quest for ignorance. Historically, as not-as-white-as-you-think America expanded north, south and west, the most important building to go up to attest that a camp had become a town was the school. Western Not State, in a quest to provide affordable housing, is grappling with a law from the early days of the railroad that said every other section of land was to be given over for school purposes. At one point, education was highly valued, with each generation working hard to send the next onto a higher level than it had attained.
And now, the fan club of a man very few people seem to actually like and whose remaining fans still don’t seem to grasp that he will throw over every single one of them as soon as it becomes expedient seems bent on destroying these foundational principles in a quest to become more like the nations they previously used to disdain for exactly these same policies: Iran, Russia, China.
Of course, I could be crediting them with more thought than I should. It could simply be a matter of a bunch of closeted bigots and bullies deciding that now they get to be the minority clamoring for their rights, now that the last six years have shown that bluster and intimidation appear to work.
Their shouting and anger has diminished professions as varied as librarians, accountants, teachers, doctors, artists and scientists. When we talk about a race to the bottom, this is easily the fastest way down.
I don’t like the shouting. It wears me out. I find their anger smothering, which I think is their point. Be so loud and so angry there is no oxygen left for anything, or anyone else.
So I am going to my first-ever library board meeting this afternoon, where I am going to tell board members — who I fervently hope already understand this — that the library is a public place where all people should feel welcome and be able to access materials that offer relevance, information and/or entertainment. It should not be any one person’s vision of what the rest of us ought to read and more importantly, not read.
Catering to the ignorant whims of one person or group opens the library up to the whims of others until pretty soon you don’t have any sort of collection at all. It is the library’s duty to serve all patrons, not just the ones who shout because bullies are sadly back in vogue.