The Same People Afraid Of Books Are Afraid Of Democracy

Book banning is something they do in fascist countries, not democracies. Although the practice starts becoming prevalent as a democracy starts sliding towards fascism, as the U.S. is today, a lesson some Americans are learning about electing a weak middle of the road president. What's that saying Jim Hightower came up with about middle of the road? "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos." That was the name of his book, in fact. I wonder when Texas will ban it. And it isn't just Texas. Writing for Axios this morning, Russell Contreras reported that Republican Party cancel culture is blossoming everywhere. "School districts from Pennsylvania to Wyoming are bowing to pressure from some conservative groups to review-- then purge from public school libraries-- books about LGBTQ issues and people of color." Wyoming is the closest thing we have to a full on Nazi state. So you would expect that-- maybe not in Albany County and certainly not in Teton County, but look ar some of these voting returns from Wyoming's 2020 presidential election for Biden:

  • Crook- 9.1% (28% fully vaccinated)

  • Campbell- 9.9% (29% fully vaccinated)

  • Weston- 10.2% (35% fully vaccinated)

  • Niobrara- 11.8% (30% fully vaccinated)

  • Converse- 12.3% (32% fully vaccinated)

  • Big Horn- 13.7% (37% fully vaccinated)

  • Lincoln- 14.4% (40% fully vaccinated)

That's totally Don't Look Up territory. So banning books? For sure. But Pennsylvania? That's like a civilized state-- or parts of it are. Other parts of it... not so much.

Pennsylvania is one of a growing list of states trying to enact a CRT ban, working on enacting one or that have local school boards who criticize CRT including Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Kentucky, Utah and New Hampshire, Iowa, Arizona, Florida and Virginia.

"Even the thought of allowing ourselves to shield our young minds from having the opportunity to learn about our diverse and sometimes divisive past goes against the core values of our society,” said state Rep. and PLBC Secretary Carol Hill-Evans, D-York. “We should be investing in an educational system that allows for honesty and value in everyone's experiences so the next generation expands on the American ideal of freedoms of thought and speech."
"We're at a moment now where we're talking about U.S. history through the lens of these authors from different backgrounds, and the people who oppose them don't even know how the contributions of all these folks and the folks they're talking about influence their ancestors, their legacies and journeys in this country," said state Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Phila). "Cultures are interwoven, they evolve and they involve all people. When someone says, 'I'm colorblind,' I say, 'I'm so sorry. If you're colorblind you can't see people of color.
"As a Pennsylvanian, as a legislator and a dad, I'm so proud of the students in York County who spoke out against the recent book ban," said Rabb, founding member of the House Democratic Equity Committee. "They inspire me to continue my advocacy for shared prosperity and justice for all."

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom told Axios that she's worked for this office for 20 years, and we've never had this volume of challenges come in such a short time." She was backed by Carolyn Foote, a retired Texas librarian of 29 years who told Axios that in her district "we might have one big challenge like every two years. I have to say that what we're seeing is really unprecedented."

The Spotsylvania County School Board in Virginia in November ordered staff to remove “sexually explicit” books from libraries after a parent raised concerns about their LGBTQ themes. “I think we should throw those books in a fire,” school board member Rabih Abuismail said during a meeting.
That same month, the Goddard School District in Kansas demanded staff remove 29 books from the district’s school libraries. The list included “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison.
The Washington County School District in Utah voted last month to ban “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and "Out of Darkness" by Ashley Hope Pérez, two novels tackling racism, following parent complaints about profanity. The superintendent cast the deciding vote.
Texas school districts are scrambling to review and ban some library books after state Rep. Matt Krause, a candidate for state attorney general, asked school superintendents to confirm whether any books on his list of 850 titles were on their shelves.
...John L. Jackson, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said the fight over books is a microcosm of our political divisions.
It's almost immaterial what the books are and what's in them," Jackson said. "It's all about the readers. It's all about the folks who are organizing our contemporary political discourse."
...Foote and other librarians are fighting book bans including through a social media campaign with the hashtag #FReadom.

Sounds awful? It's part of what Norman Solomon termed in his new book, Made Love, Got War, an all-out war on democracy underway in our country. "Class war in the United States," wrote Solomon, "has established what amounts to oligarchy. A zero-sum economic system, aka corporate capitalism, is constantly exercising its power to reward and deprive. The dominant forces of class warfare-- disproportionately afflicting people of color while also steadily harming many millions of whites-- continue to undermine basic human rights including equal justice and economic security. In the real world, financial power is political power. A system that runs on money is adept at running over people without it... An all-out war on democracy is now underway in the United States. More than ever, the Republican Party is the electoral arm of unabashed white supremacy as well as such toxicities as xenophobia, nativism, anti-gay bigotry, patriarchy, and misogyny. The party’s rigid climate denial is nothing short of deranged. Its approach to the Covid pandemic has amounted to an embrace of death in the name of rancid individualism. With its Supreme Court justices in place, the 'Grand Old Party' has methodically slashed voting rights and abortion rights. Overall, on domestic matters, the partisan matchup is between neoliberalism and neofascism. While the abhorrent roles of the Democratic leadership are extensive, to put it mildly, the two parties now represent hugely different constituencies and agendas at home. Not so on matters of war and peace."

Solomon concluded with a warning: "A rosy view of the USA’s future is only possible when ignoring history in real time. After four years of the poisonous Trump presidency, the Biden strain of corporate liberalism offers a mix of antidotes and ongoing toxins. The Republican Party, now neofascist, is in a strong position to gain control of the U.S. government by mid-decade. Preventing such a cataclysm seems beyond the grasp of the same Democratic Party elites that paved the way for Donald Trump to become president in the first place. Realism about the current situation-- clarity about how we got here and where we are now-- is necessary to mitigate impending disasters and help create a better future. Vital truths must be told. And acted upon."

Vital truths? Like in books? The books Republicans are banning all across the country now? Imagine a library without any books by Jean Genet, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Mary Renault, Malcolm X, John Rechy, Christopher Isherwood, Angela Davis, Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith, Ta-Nahesi Coats, Gore Vidal, Saeed Jones, Virginia Woolf, David Levithan, Alice Walker, Edmund White, Thomas Mann...