Banned Books and Book People

With the news of the graphic novel Maus being challenged by one Tennessee school board the response of Facebook book groups was predictable. Book people tend to not like it when books are banned or challenged, and right now in America books are under assault. This is nothing new for books as since the invention of the written word books have been hunted, deemed dangerous, and seen as a corrupting force.

The issue is Maus is a book about the Holocaust, a subject everyone thought we were in agreement on. Having that book challenged is such an afront on our sensibilities because only a Nazi would be offended by a book detailing the horrors of the Holocaust.

there is a great line in Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary where he explains the dangers of the cooling sun to a classroom of children using animals as an example because people are more empathetic towards animals than they are other people. This is the very concept of Maus. People empathize with animals more easily than people. Think about the dog in movies and how 40 people can get shot in the head and the audience never blinks an eye but one dog is put in danger and everyone is on the edge of their seat. We view animals as far more innocent than humans and therefore much more deserving of our sympathy.

Now back to the Facebook groups. There were dozens of posts in book groups asking about books that have been banned or challenged. Including asking for recommendations for recent ones. Then there were the responses. Occasionally there would be someone that would ask why this group was suddenly political and how they weren’t in the group for politics, and as we all know whenever someone says something like this they mean they don’t like discussions that disagree with their politics.

My question is what were they expecting? Every other week in one of these book groups it is banned book week where people discuss books like 1984 or Lord of the Flies that have been challenged or banned in the past. My guess is they like to think of things like racism and book banning as being things from the past. It must be pretty to think that way.

I live in a city and state that is now at the heart of this controversy. Our current Governor won, in part, by attacking Toni Morrison and claiming parent rights as a way to push an agenda of banning or removing books from school libraries. In practice, this has proven to be a lot less popular than it was on the campaign trail.

it feels like every other week there is a list of books being challenged or removed from school libraries by the radical right in this country. The right in America speaks a lot of platitudes about freedom and free speech and remembering history and all that, but when given power that is the last thing they want anyone to do, and it must be shocking to the people they suckered into voting for them.

That is what I think is going on. People are more than happy to discuss 1984 having been banned in some distant but not too distant past, but they aren’t willing to admit that their team is out there trying to actively remove books from school libraries. This action will never, and should never, be accepted, and I also think it is foolish to think you have to agree with every action undertaken by people that put an R or a D next to their name just because you view yourself as an R or a D.

The acquisition of knowledge is a human right and one of the founding principles of the United States. We should never forget that and fight against the banning or removal of books wherever and by whomever it happens.

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