Here’s some scary stuff. Really fucking scary, worthy of more attention than its getting. If this doesn’t scare you, it should.
This puts a tremendous threat and unfair burden against and on librarians, and threatens our very freedom at its most valuable: expression, speech, thought, learning, recreation.
Probably the work of Christian fundamentalists who usually don’t shrink from a fight for “God”, this bill has seen many like it in the Bible belt and beyond. It’s always been like that. When I was very young, kids’ books were so vanilla that they avoided reality in some pretty bizarre ways, with exceptions like the end of Mike Mulligan and his Steamshovel, but even that ended with kids not so sure if living the rest of his life in a basement with an obsolete Steamshovel was really all that happy. Then in the 70s things began to change. Hunter Thompson’s Hell’s Angels described the “statutory rape at Bass Lake” with enough detail that this title would be gone forevermore. Bills like these would throttle the progress we’ve made culturally. Because nobody knows what’s next once censorship begins. It hurtles like a snowball down a hill in a cartoon. It gathers more momentum and it sucks up anything in its path.
Here’s a bill which would cause a librarian jail time and the library to lose funding if anything mentions in its text the subjects of sexual assault and gay rights or even books by gay and lesbian authors. Because you know if the content gets banned, so too will be the authors.
By the late 1970s I could buy any paperback I could find. Buy it cheap, and if it was good, it stayed on the shelf to be reread many times. Books by diverse authors such as Joseph Wambaugh and nonfiction greats. If anything was banned by libraries, and I know there were, then I’ve forgotten the titles. An old saying went, “If it could be banned in Boston, it’ll be a blockbuster”. Some classic titles were and still are banned depending on location.
We were not the better for it. Except for Disco, there was a time when I was naive enough to believe we’d made progress. At 7-eleven you could buy Hustler Magazine, but Reader’s Digest was still there, too. One could be found in library mag sections, the other surely not. In one issue of Reader’s Digest, I read an article titled “The Terrible Trauma Of Rape”. Guess what? It was incredibly enlightening at the time, and that is what I believe is really what most censorship aims to stop.
Keep in mind that most shitty bills like this are penned by Republicans, who often feel threatened by knowledge. Because the more people know about the LGBTQ population and lifestyle, the more they know what constitutes rape and sexual assault and harassment, the more republican politicians will face their own danger of public disgrace and scandal, and perhaps prison time. The repressive are the ones who are most dangerous as a rule; they fight their own demons. They doth protest too loudly, you know?
Now protecting children is always our job. Yeah. For everyone. But I don’t give a damn for anyone sponsoring a bill for draconian Gestapo-style bullshit in the name of protecting kids when over 5,000 children of Latin American heritage have been kidnapped, put in cages and trafficked for sex and domestic slavery. Come on! Republicans did that ghastly shit! They’re still unable to answer questions truthfully about it. Folks, that’s over five thousand children! Don’t you fucking dare tell me republican assholes in Missouri care about children. If they did, they’d be screaming at Washington, they’d be against this shit, and they would tell their constituents the fucking truth.
I got pissed when libraries banned the Harry Potter books. Being a liberal Christian, I’d read the books and found that, yes, they grew more dark and more complicated in vocabulary and theme as they progressed. And yes, I knew that the Bible forbade witchcraft.
But this was a fantasy world. Rowling created a whole world, and it’s intricate and has quite the backstory. It’s also brilliant and magnificently done. Some libraries didn’t think so.
And then came the hacks like Pat Robertson and others. “Real witches claim that the Harry Potter books are their best recruiting tool” they said, and what’s funny is, it’s a lie. Firstly, because Rowling’s world is fantasy. If someone looks to become a witch after reading the books, they quickly learn that they won’t be fighting dark wizards. There’s no adventure. No stunning spells, although “avada kedavra” was supposed to once be a real spoken curse, but it certainly didn’t strike people dead by shooting green lightning from a stick.
No, Rowling’s work is a showcase for bravery, altruism, loyalty and the constant fight for what’s right. It safely exposes readers to issues like love, coming of age, having convictions that are good and defended for against all odds. And the books progressed as a child would grow and be able to actually feel the stories and what characters endured. From overcoming fear to losing loved ones to bigotry and learning that people are not always the way one perceives, it’s all there, packed with comedy and growing pains and deep regret.
Rowling herself is a Christian, and the books reflect this. There’s Christmas, trees, gifts, and of course sacrifice, all themes not associated with witchcraft by the religious right. She was telling a story, one that was long and complex, and with a delicate touch for honesty and goodness. It’s one big masterpiece.
One thing I liked which was not in the films, was Hermione’s activism over the rights of the house elves. This you don’t get much of in these times. Reading news articles, which kids to the older end of childhood can access on their phones and tablets, is a horror. These are terrifying times we’re in, and parents need to be there and paying attention to what their children are exposed to, not because they should stop all web browsing, but because the kids have questions and concerns. Together they can find answers and hope. That’s what being a parent is about. However, it is up to a parent, not a librarian or a political idiot to monitor their children’s activity on the web. Or in a library, or with cable TV. It’s a job so many utterly fail at; families rarely sit down together for evening meals, don’t turn off their cell phones, don’t ask what’s going on, don’t even talk. That’s the real problem, not books.
Hey, I gotta tell you before I go that hell yeah, I read some fucked up books growing up. Of course I did. But I learned from them. I had insights into what was going on in my own fucked-up life, and I wanted to be a better person than what I was headed to become. You take away the horrible, and kids can’t respect the good. As Horace Slughorn said, “There can be no light without the dark,” and that’s the God’s honest truth.
I’m gonna leave you with something done by Samuel L. Jackson which I happen to agree with. Don’t let freedom die. If it does, we die.