Have I posted a good rant yet? Better late than never!
Today I am particularly pissed that in the year 2020 we are STILL talking about banning books. I mean, this isn't North Korea. This is the FREE country of the United States, a democratic nation where we vote for our own rights. Yeah, we've got problems, we've got some massive issues, but we should be WAY beyond banning books. Apparently not.
The Missouri House of Representatives Rep. Ben Baker (R) introduced the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, or House Bill 2044 on January 8, 2020. You can read the entire bill here, but if you want the Cliff's notes version, here it is. Basically, he wants to create a 5-member committee that would decide which books in public libraries are too sexually explicit for kids. Not only would the state yank funding (poor as it already is) for libraries not conforming to the banning of these committee-selected books, but librarians could actually be jailed if they violate those provisions.
Let me proceed to tell you why this is complete and utter BULLSHIT.
1. The State should not be parenting your kids. Let me say that again. THE STATE SHOULD NOT BE PARENTING YOUR KIDS. If you want laws to be passed taking the decisions away from you, the parent, on how your child should be raised, then you're not a parent, you're a biological breeder. Parenting is HARD. It is supposed to be! It is your job to decide how those tiny minds get shaped, and it is a massive responsibility. Do you really want someone else making those decisions for you? You really don't. There's lazy, and then there's irresponsible. We all get to shape our children into adult humans, and many of the decisions we make influence what that child's life to be. Do we want them to be mindless zombies who depend on the government to make all of their life decisions? That was a rhetorical question, OF COURSE WE FUCKING DON'T!
2. Librarians are the organizers of knowledge. How DARE anyone suggest fining them for disagreeing with book banning?! There are some seriously dark books that kids NEED to read in their lives to understand the world. Some of them may have explicit content. It is your job as a parent to explain and guide your child through that. The librarian is the gatekeeper, it is their job to show us the path. Walk it hand in hand with your child. Don't make them go it alone.
3. Right now the state just lists "sexual content." But this committee will take suggestions from the public. And let me tell you that as a working adult, one of the most important lessons I've learned is that the squeaky wheel truly does get the grease. The louder someone complains, the more likely they are to get their way. It very often has nothing to do with right or wrong, and is often just the person who is being complained to being worn down by the onslaught. And the uneducated masses can be very loud indeed. It starts with sexual content, and very very quickly will move to LGBTQ+ content, then political content, and will eventually become anything the loudest person does not personally agree with (and probably never actually read the book to fully understand it.)
Let me share with you a little anecdote. When I was in the 10th grade, our AP English class was assigned to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Within 48 hours, a student's guardian was up at the school raising hell, demanding that the book be removed from the curriculum and banned from future assignments. You see, the woman had read a few sentences, had noticed disturbing things, and marched her ignorant self-righteous person right up to the school. She did not understand, and no one could make her, that the book was a satire. That the entire point was to make the reader disturbed. That to grow our minds and opinions and become free-thinking adults, that we sometimes needed to be exposed to the ugly to understand the good. "There can be no heaven without hell." How can we understand what's right if we don't ever see a wrong?
The lot of us, and our parents (including my dad, who hasn't read a book since they forced him in high school) had to petition the school to keep the book in our curriculum. I finished it in a night just to make sure it couldn't be taken away. You see, I was only 14, and I didn't fully comprehend that book banning still existed; I thought it was part of the pre-Revolutionary America, something that stopped when we firmly shouted "we shall have freedom of speech!" I was terrified someone would somehow take this from me, this ability to gain knowledge of my own free will.
In the end, we won, and that poor student had to be moved from another class because his guardian ended up hating that teacher, who stood up for our rights. She could have handled the situation in any number of ways that didn’t include banning the book (including speaking to the teacher about her concerns like an adult,) but she believed that she was right and that everyone else was wrong. She wanted to take away everyone else’s ability to disagree with her. So you see, it wasn't just the book that shaped me, it was the whole experience.
I have my own rules for what my kids read. They are probably very different from other parents' rules. And that's fine. I have the right to decide what my kid reads, and if that includes more explicit content than what your child reads, THAT IS MY RIGHT AS A PARENT.
Now if you say, "But Brittany, you could always buy the books you want," ok, maybe I could. But can everyone? Libraries are the most wonderful thing in this country, a FREE place for people to educate themselves. People who could not otherwise afford the luxury (and it is a luxury) of buying their own books have access to anything they desire, and librarians facilitate that. If this public service ever collapses, we will know that we are on the downward slide away from freedom.
"So what can I do?" Excellent question! First, share share share. Make sure everyone knows. Just because you don't live in Missouri doesn't mean you don't know someone who does. And if you do! Call or email your state and local representatives, especially Rep. Ben Baker (R). (Click that link, it takes you to allllll of his contact info.) He is a Republican, a stout conservative. Don't send him an angry rant he will ignore. Apply to his small-government sensibility. Remind him of the implications of banning books. Remind him that he does not believe in giving all of your personal rights up to a big government. That is EXACTLY what this bill proposes. Who appoints the committees who ban the books, and who oversees their choices? Who oversees the overseers? He's worried about sexual content, but what if the committee decided to ban Christian books instead? Remind him that there are some pretty explicit things in the Bible. Tell him to leave the parenting of our children to the parents, let us decide what is appropriate for our children.
I have faith in humanity, that liberty will prevail, and that there are too many intelligent people in the world to let this stand. Don't prove me wrong.