Sunday, October 1, 2023

Column: Stop pretending book banning is about sex. If we ban books, “we ban knowledge, culture and empathy,” said the Illinois Secretary of State

I think it was meant to be a catch moment: Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, read aloud parts of the sexual passages to a clearly heated and agitated Senate Judiciary Committee.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias had the floor, testifying during the hearing “Book Bans: Examining How Censorship Limits Freedom and Literature” and promoting a new law on Illinois bans state funding of any library that bans books for “partisan or doctrinal” reasons. .

The American Library Association documented 1,269 cases of censorship of books and library resources in 2022, nearly double the number of attempted book bans in 2021 and the highest number recorded since the group began collecting the censorship data for the past 20 years.

“The concept and practice of banning books goes against the essence of what our country stands for and what our democracy is built on,” said Giannoulias, who serves as Illinois’ state librarian and is also a member of the Library’s board. . Chicago Public. “It also challenges what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves.”

When it was Kennedy’s turn to speak, he recited some excerpts from “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Gender Queer,” two books often banned for their sexually explicit LGBTQ content.

The words “leash harness” appear in Kennedy’s speech, and you can Google it if you want to know the rest.

(Choose your search terms wisely. Their algorithms are watching. Also, while you’re on the internet, check out some Twitter responses to Kennedy’s recitation. “My family reads the my texts aloud after my death” is one of My favorites).

Even so. Maybe those of us following at home should hold on to the idea of ​​young people reading about *that* kind of sex, as opposed to the heterosexual kind that is in every part of our culture and used to sell everything from burgers . from bottled water to cologne.

(It should be noted that student Cameron Samuels, who attended the hearing, testified that the “All Boys Aren’t Blue” passage read aloud by Kennedy described a scene of abuse. “It’s not erotic,” Samuels said. That nuance may have been lost in the senator’s reading.)

Perhaps we should look to Kennedy and his ilk as our white knights, saving our children from the wages of sin and saving us from discussing uncomfortable topics at the dinner table.

Perhaps those who oppose book bans with every fiber of our being should have switched teams, now that we’ve heard what’s really going on inside the library books.

Let’s stop pretending that our problem today is that young people are looking for too much belonging, too much empathy, too much understanding.

Stop pretending to leave LGBTQ+ youth on the sidelines, to isolate them from who they are and who they love, to ban their stories, to pretend they are unprepared them (or their straight peers) for a perfect, satisfying, healthy. life. , harmonious life.

Stop pretending that book banning has anything to do with sex. A Florida elementary school banned Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” a few months ago. A Tennessee school board has banned the Holocaust novel “Maus” because it contains blasphemy.

Let’s stop pretending we can solve the most pressing and dire problems of our time (the climate crisis, the opioid overdose epidemic, gun violence, the recent doubling of child poverty, the youth mental health crisis) excluding all types of voices. and stories. , views, ideas, experiences and wisdom in public discourse and policy formation.

Stop trying to surprise us with sex toys. Children were massacred at school with assault rifles. We live in a perpetual state of shock. Saying “leash harness” in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is not surprising; This is theater. I love theater, but we don’t elect representatives for that.

We elect them to solve problems, not to disrupt them. Book restrictions are a distraction. It is a distraction that undermines the values ​​we were built to uphold: freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of expression. And it distracts from becoming a more perfect, more just, more loving, more tolerant version of ourselves.

“If book posters want,” Giannoulias affirmed, “they can go to our libraries and look up the Federalist Papers, the United States Constitution, and even Supreme Court cases on the First Amendment. what they will learn is that our democracy depends on the marketplace of ideas.

“That marketplace of ideas doesn’t work if we ban books,” he continued, “because we ban ideas and prevent our children from thinking for themselves and having the ability to debate, learn and understanding different perspectives. We will ban different and different knowledge, culture, empathy, understanding and world view.”

All the things we need more than ever.

Enjoy Heidi Stevens’ Law of Balance Facebook Group, where she continues the conversation around her columns and hosts occasional live chats.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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