Recent years, American libraries, specifically public school libraries, have been attacked by Christian and conservative parents who believe that having material in their collections that acknowledges beliefs and cultures other than their own is somehow damaging to their children. I grew up in an environment that had the same mindset. Hate groups like Focus on the Family would regularly call for banning or boycotting (that’s what Christians call it when they do it - it’s “cancelling” if anyone else does it) anything that ran afoul of whatever they believed their Christianity stood.
This is sloth on the part of the parent who absconds from their own responsibility to guide their own child. This is intellectual cowardice from a tradition that has existed for two thousand years, but a few books in a public library is enough to topple the whole thing.
Two years ago, some of those same cowards had been elected to school board in a neighboring county and not only advocated for the removal of the books, but the burning of them. From John Haltiwanger’s November 10th, 2021 piece for Insider, Virginia school board members call for books to be burned amid GOP’s campaign against schools teaching about race and sexuality:
Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg both championed burning the books that have been removed.
“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” Abuismail said. Meanwhile, Twigg said he wanted to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”
The article, like several other I’ve seen, draws lines between American book bans at public schools to Nazi Germany. This, I feel, is easy journalism. Book burnings in churches right here in this country, recently, happen and happen regularly. I personally attended a book burning at New Hope Full Gospel Church in Zanesville, Ohio on the evening of April 6th, 2005, (presuming that I had the date and time set on my camera correctly). This is dressed up as an intentional sacrifice of your property and secular ideals. In other traditions, this would be called a “destruction ritual”. In and of itself? I actually do not have a problem with it. If someone destroyed a book, or a movie, or some music that they felt were harmful to their life - that’s fine. Evangelicals believe that their beliefs are universal and should be held by all human beings. They are correct - everyone else is wrong.
Fortunately, there are governments that are working to keep christofascists from imposing their cultural beliefs upon the children whose families are also part of the community that the public school is shared by. From Book Riot, Illinois to Become First State to Ban Book Bans:
The Illinois Senate has passed HB 2789, a bill whose terms dictate that state funding from public or school libraries that remove books from circulation will be withheld.
As per the bill, the $62 million of funding that goes to the state’s libraries will only be eligible for said funding if they “adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights” or “develop a written statement prohibiting the practice of banning books or other materials within the library or library system.“
The American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights includes:
I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
These are issues that pertain to the fundamentals of a society that strives to be democratic. A democracy must have some dissenting viewpoints - or it isn’t a democracy. No need to have your voice heard in your own governance - if it’s exactly the same as everyone else’s. The only way to have, what US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is frequently credited with calling, “a marketplace of ideas” is to have a variety of ideas of which to assess the value thereof.
What should not be expected of by any purveyor of any kind of media is that they will be doing the work of a parent to guide a child. What should be expected of an American parent is having some vigilance over the material that their child is consuming and having a conversation with said child about that material and what it may mean or not mean. Keeping children ignorant of the abundance of of cultural differences in this wide world of ours is a sin against children.