Back in 2006, Kansas banned Charlotte’s Web.
Angry parents called the book “blasphemous.” According to them, talking animals contradicted their belief that humans were God’s most perfect creations. They also objected to its portrayal of death. They had a problem with the fact that things die, and pigs don’t want to get turned into bacon.
That was almost 20 years ago. It was almost funny to imagine a state banning a children’s book over talking animals.
Now it’s not so funny.
Now if you’re a librarian who gets accused of providing books that are seen as “harmful to minors,” you can go to jail. A spate of new laws across the country targets school libraries in particular, and school districts are taking it dead serious. One district in Florida told librarians and teachers to take all of their books off the shelves until they could be reviewed. Some teachers were even told they had to remove every single book from their classrooms.
They were scared.
One smug politician from Idaho (Jaron Crane) thinks the fear coming out of educators proves they’re doing something wrong: “If teachers and librarians are scared to do their jobs, that confirms the fact that there is indeed material in their libraries that is harmful to minors.”
No, Jaron. It confirms that guys like you find everything from talking animals to teenage magicians offensive and dangerous. They don’t trust you to make decisions that are even remotely rational.
It’s a scary time for anyone who works in education. These laws are either passed or pending in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Tennessee, South Carolina, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Maine.
States aren’t stopping with libraries, either.
The Governor of Tennessee just recently signed a new law that “makes it a felony for a book publisher, distributor, or seller to provide ‘obscene matter’ to a public school serving any K-12 students.” These states are going after everyone, from librarians to editors. They’re going after bookstore owners.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says the head of one teacher’s union. Within the next year, just about every red state will have laws threatening anyone who works in the education sector. Punishment ranges from fines to prison. And we’re not just talking about a little jail time. We’re talking six years in federal prison.
Over things like talking animals…
If you think that sounds outrageous, think about it. These cranks have even found ways to argue that Green Eggs and Ham contains everything from sexually explicit content to communist propaganda. All it took was one satirical essay to start a movement against Dr. Seuss. Many of these lunatics spend their days analyzing memes for hidden meanings. They’re absolutely going to find sex and obscenity anywhere they want to, and now they can convince the state to take them seriously. Nobody is safe from this level of crazy.
All of this confirms what some of us have been saying for years, that conservatives don’t care about anyone’s free speech but their own.
They’ll silence everyone else.
The states passing these laws claim to be focused mainly on material they find sexually explicit, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows these tactics all too well. Conservatives use children’s mental and emotional health as a cover for pushing their own agenda. They’ve been doing it for decades now, and they get bolder every year. We’ve been heading this way for a long time. Angry parents and their political reps were never going to stop with banning abortion. Politicians were never going to be satisfied with attacks on critical race theory.
They were always planning something bigger.
Well, here it is.
Let’s spell things out:
If a parent finds a book they don’t like in a public school library, they can now bring charges against the actual librarians who work there.
The state can take up the case and prosecute them.
They can send those librarians to jail.
In response, school districts are reacting out of extreme fear. They’re going to play it extra safe. They’re not just removing books that might have a sex scene in them. They’re removing everything and anything that could possibly offend bigots and prudes, including anything that even suggests that it’s okay to be anything other than God’s perfect little angels.
That’s the point of the laws. It’s not to protect children. It’s to scare the hell out of librarians and teachers everywhere.
The parents and politicians responsible for these laws talk about things like Charlotte’s Web and Drag Story Hour. They act like these pose some kind of dire threat to children.
In reality, the worst thing that can happen is that children learn it’s okay for boys to dress like girls, and pigs have feelings.
In case you’re wondering, it’s already illegal to distribute obscene materials to children. Nobody’s trying to assign 50 Shades of Grey in schools. Nobody says that should be in the kids’ library.
That would be nuts.
These politicians and their angry parent brigade don’t care about that anyway. This same group will force a ten-year-old to have a child. They’ll let kids live in fear of mass shootings. They’ll expose them to all kinds of deadly pathogens, but they won’t let them read about sex or race. They’ll downplay every threat to children except the ones that personally bother them. When you call out their blatant hypocrisy, they either ignore you or get angry.
They’re not even remotely interested in protecting children.
They’re using them.
We act like there’s nothing we can do. Sometimes I fall into that trap myself, but then I remember the simplest lessons.
Look at what works for them.
There’s nothing special about what’s happening. We’re simply seeing one small group impose their will on everyone else.
They’re louder. They’re more aggressive.
I’m often told that writing about our problems and spreading awareness doesn’t work. You have to come up with some magical solution. Well, being loud and repetitive works for the other side. They have a relentless propaganda machine that spews outrage and conspiracy 24/7. If talking about problems didn’t work, then Fox News wouldn’t exist. Nobody would vote for the loudest, rudest politicians. So of course talking about our problems makes a difference.
Angry parents are exactly why schools ditched mask mandates, and it’s exactly why they’re taking books out of classrooms now.
If the far right is going to drown teachers and librarians in hate, then we have to drown them in support. You can let your school know that educators can count on you, that you’ll stand up for them.
As we’ve seen, there’s been a massive exodus of teachers from public school systems. They’re leaving for a lot of reasons, including low pay. But the biggest reason is they don’t feel supported by their communities.
Neither do librarians.
We often get overwhelmed by the sense that we have to save everything in the entire world all at once. It leads to a kind of paralysis. We forget. Republicans don’t think like that. Even when they get angry and lash out at each other, they play the long game. They pay attention to every little school district.
They keep score.
So let’s stop thinking about the entire world just for a minute. Let’s think about the teachers and librarians in our hometown. Let’s show them some support, and I don’t mean platitudes and bumper stickers. I mean crowdsourcing legal funds and making life difficult for school districts that try to take books out of your child’s classrooms. I mean reading banned books with your kids. I mean telling librarians that you think they’re doing the right thing.
If you don’t want to do that, it’s your decision. Just understand that if you still care at all about the future, that would help.
They need it more than ever.
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Banning books, transphobia, guns, anti-wokeism etc.
Corrupt politicians (and the Corps that fund them) will do anything and everything to distract and avoid people noticing they are being ripped off to a historic degree at every single turn.
I’m seriously waiting for a witch scare.
Watch, it’s going to happen.
This is a direct tunnel towards Christian Nationalism, which is what these lunatic parents want. They want to go back to when the Christian bible was the only book anyone was allowed to read. We are headed backwards to witch burning, slavery and other banishments until the only ones left are the White Christian Nationalists. Probably not in my lifetime, but my kids or grandchildren's time, unless we vote out the extremists who give license to these hard line Christians and white supremecists. Saving the teachers and librarians is a nice bandaid but it doesn't stop the infection. It's time to start protesting against the tyranny in our governments, and try to stay out of jail doing it.