Book Banning In Northwest Arkansas As Culture War Infects Nation


There is no way to have missed the latest culture war. Book banning is once again a pastime for a certain demographic in the nation which consists mainly of conservative white, rural parents. Nothing says ‘welcome to the 21st century’ and modernity than striking out at books.

This year books about racial matters and ones dealing with gay and transgender issues are getting special attention. These actions against books are taking place in areas with high numbers of Republican voters.

For instance in Virginia, the Spotsylvania County School Board has directed staff to begin removing books that contain “sexually explicit” material—but please keep in mind what constitutes explicit material between the views of a book-burner and that of a librarian is akin to the difference between a suspension bridge and a tomato.

And I do not use the term book burner lightly in this post. I mean it literally.

Two board members, Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg, said they would like to see the removed books burned.

“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” Abuismail said, and Twigg said he wants to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”

If my readers think there is a harshness being exhibited towards conservatives who wish to ban books, please be assured I have railed equally about liberals who carp about Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird“, John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” or “Huckleberry Finn

Banning books is just wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

What caught my attention about this broader issue was hearing of the action taken earlier this year at a school in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, not too far from Fayetteville. Their school board voted to remove a book about transgender teens from the high school library. The book, “Beyond Magenta” by Susan Kuklin, talks about the experiences and lives of transgender teens.

How this one incident played out is typical of the methods used by other parents across the country.

Three parents learned the book was in the library at the high school and filed a formal complaint to have the book removed because of some parts the parents found inappropriate.

Three people and their interpretations of inappropriate should be the first stick to your eye with this story. Here then is how the local newspaper, The Herald Leader reported the news.

On Dec. 17, a committee of seven voting members convened to hear the complaints regarding the book, according to a report by the committee.

After hearing the complaints, the committee considered the book in its entirety not taking selected portions out of context, the report states.

The majority of the committee voted that the book meets the criteria and should remain in the library, the report states.

There was lengthy discussion by the committee that while this book contains graphic language and sexual situations it does not preclude the book as a whole from having educational value nor does it change that fact that it does meet the selection criteria, the report states.

After the three parents received the news they decided to appeal to the school board.

Elsewhere in the south Greg Locke, a truly frightful right-wing preacher in Nashville, Tennessee led his congregation in a scene straight out of 1930s Germany….a nighttime book burning at his church.

This is not the first time the nation has heard from the fringe right-wingers that leftists are writing school textbooks and children are being taught history–gasp–in a manner consistent with the way events played out, and with the wide lens of history so to add perspectives that were not considered when everyone supposedly came from an Ozzie and Harriet family.

In Republican districts, the daggers of censorship are coming out to limit what children can learn through books. While the majority of people see the danger to both education and democracy through such efforts, the book burners miss the most obvious point.

When they fear a book–and fear of the bigger and more diverse world is precisely what these parents harbor and then unleash–only drives kids to the very text that is so ‘taboo’. After all, every book published is just a few clicks away with the internet. Having a book taken from the library shelves only makes it more tantalizing for young readers and teenagers.

And so it goes.

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