Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Ban on the run

It’s book-banning season in America.

I always get a little nervous when talk of banning books floats to the scummy surface. It means someone is trying to repress certain ideas. It’s always couched in language akin to we must protect our children, but the real motive is always to block ideas that conflict with a narrow conception of the status quo. Usually those ideas are associated with particular groups of people, and the banning of their books is a symbolic way of banning them.

The nervous powers that be are especially upset by critical race theory this year, mainly with respect to how it conflicts with the mythical story of America that children must absorb in order to be good compliant citizens. There’s propaganda to be disseminated, and CRT (thought it’s not taught in public schools anywhere) flies in the face of it; i.e., the founding fathers were slaveholders who often bopped their female slaves (Sally Hemmings) and saw fit to construct the Constitution to enable the southern states to perpetuate the peculiar institution. And as recently as, well, now, lynchings of Black men still take place. On and on. But children mustn’t be made uncomfortable by such facts.

A lot of books about the LGBTQ experience were hit as well. The parties in power don’t want gender and sexual orientation talked about inside school walls. They want young people to stay quiet about such things. They don’t want expressions of identity to topple the existing order. Most of all, they want children with nonbinary or homosexual identities to grow up to be adults who keep those identities in the closet. You know—like the good ol’ days.

Everyone knows by now that a rural Tennessee school district recently banned the graphic novel, Maus, which examines the Holocaust by depicting Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. The district claims they didn’t ban the book; they just elected to replace it with a different Holocaust treatment, though no replacement has yet appeared. You get the feeling that the board members aren’t trying to protect eighth graders from upsetting imagery so much as wanting to diminish the magnitude of the Holocaust. An agenda lurks in the background, I reckon. The book’s creator, Art Spiegelman, by the way, sees the banning as “a red alert.” We all know what he means.

In 2021, books as popular and instructive as To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Handmaid’s Tale, Animal Farm, The Catcher in the Rye, and Beloved have gotten the axe. School boards are using the excuse of protecting kids from unpleasant feelings and graphic language as a way of keeping big themes out of their heads. Racial intolerance. Economic inequality. Sexism. These “educators” seem to know that if they block access to books like that early, those kids won’t be seeking them out later. They become gamers and YouTube influencers.

At times like this it’s important to keep the words of Oscar Wilde in mind: “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”


13 comments on “Ban on the run

  1. mastroji
    January 31, 2022

    Reblogged this on The Political Iconoclast.

  2. loristory
    January 31, 2022

    Some of those banned books you mentioned are the most memorable ones to me. I became immersed in their worlds, not only because of the subject matter, but also due to the quality of the writing. Without those impactful novels, I just would not be the person I am today. In fact, I dare say I’d be dumber. Down with book banning!

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 31, 2022

      I know what you mean. They always go for the most powerful books because those are the ones that really get inside a young person.

  3. Gary Trujillo
    January 31, 2022

    And just imagine….this fiasco was stoked to a fever pitch by an (atheist) bratty, rich kid p*ssy who was simply looking for admiration and a few grifted dollars. “While Rome Burns” is happening in our lifetime.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 31, 2022

      I’m not sure he’s an atheist so much as a nihilist. If he IS an atheist, he gives us a bad name. 😡

  4. Luanne
    January 31, 2022

    I taught children’s lit college courses from 1990 to 2005, and those were the same books being banned at that time.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 31, 2022

      Isn’t it something? It’s almost like they want to prevent kids from … thinking!

      • Luanne
        January 31, 2022

        Nah, impossible.

  5. Marie A Bailey
    January 31, 2022

    Love that quote. Of course, Oscar Wilde would be banned too …

  6. Pamela Beckford
    February 1, 2022

    I’ve decided to read at least 2 banned books every month (this year). I’m already behind since I didn’t decide that until January 30 – but I will catch up. I read a locally banned book to start and while it has some sex (nothing graphic), it deals with a topic that teens definitely need to be reading about. I loved the way it handled the grief and possible suicide. If I had a teen I would be telling them they needed to read this book – and I will when my grandson is a couple of years older. It was Looking for Alaska by John Green. I had never heard of it before but it was a powerful book.

    I’m always looking for banned books suggestions – I’ve read many of the common ones so I want to hear what other people think.

    Books shouldn’t be banned but there are some other things that should – guns maybe?

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 1, 2022

      Great idea! These days there’ll be plenty of books on your TBR list, unfortunately.

      Why does it feel like we’ve made 0 progress over the past fifty years? 😣

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This entry was posted on January 31, 2022 by in politics and tagged , , , .
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