controversies, law, poor judgment, rants, religion, Texas

Now libraries are a threat, and must be destroyed!

Every time I think things can’t get any more ridiculous or absurd, someone or something proves me wrong. I never thought I’d watch my country move backwards so fast as I have since Donald Trump was unleashed to wreak havoc on our democracy. It’s bad enough that judges and politicians with no medical training whatsoever see fit to try to eliminate abortion access, as they also refuse to expand social safety nets and access to affordable healthcare and childcare. Now, we have people contemplating shutting down libraries!

A couple of days ago, I read a horrifying story about a rural county in Texas where people were contemplating shutting down the local library. Why? Because in April 2022, seven residents of Llano County, Texas dared to sue county officials, claiming their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated when 17 books were taken off the shelves because they were deemed “inappropriate”.

Some people in the community and local officials didn’t like the subject matter of the books, so access to them was either restricted, or they were removed from the library altogether. These folks no doubt felt they were “protecting the community” from books about race, gender, or sexuality. Obviously, being exposed to that information would only give people “ideas”, causing them to fall into “sin”. In case you missed my sarcasm, obviously, I believe that’s ludicrous. If that’s really how they feel, they probably ought to consider banning the Bible, too.

Some “thinking people” realized that it wasn’t right for certain conservative groups to decide for everyone else what subject matter was appropriate for their public library system. So they sued, and the judge saw things their way. On March 30, 2023, US District Judge Robert Pitman ordered the Llano County Library System to return the books to the shelves within 24 hours. According to CNN:

Books ordered to return to shelves include “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings.

The judge also ordered that the books be listed as available in the library’s catalog. The books are not allowed to be removed for any reason while the case is ongoing. Pitman said, “Although libraries are afforded great discretion for their selection and acquisition decisions, the First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination.”

Fair enough, right? The case went to court, and the judge decided. You’d think that would settle things for now, but no…

Rather than just complying with the judge’s orders, the defendants, who had argued that the books were removed as part of a regular “weeding process”, decided it would be better to just shut down the libraries for everyone.

They were pretty sneaky about it, too. They didn’t come out and say they were shutting the library down out of spite. They raised the idea on a recent agenda without naming a specific reason for closing the library. Instead, they described it as a discussion “regarding the continued employment and/or status of the Llano County Library System employees and the feasibility of the use of the library premises by the public.”

The Llano County commissioners and members of the Library Board have appealed the judge’s ruling. They don’t trust people in their community to decide for themselves what they should read, or what books their children should have access to reading. Interestingly enough, I’m certain the people who are for book banning and censorship would identify themselves as “freedom loving Americans.” And yet, they want to dictate to everyone else what should be available to be read in a taxpayer supported community library.

One of the complaints is that the library isn’t a “safe space” for kids. If you’re really afraid of a book being “unsafe” for your kids, I wish you luck when they finally grow up and move away… Geez! God forbid you might supervise what your children are reading, too.

Fortunately, good sense has prevailed in Llano County, and for now, the library will stay open. Yesterday, the Commissioner’s Court unanimously voted to “shelve” discussion of defunding the library, at least for the time being. According to CNN:

“The library will remain open. We will try this in the courts, not through social media or the news media,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said Thursday.

That is a sensible comment, indeed, although the commissioners vowed to continue to fight the lawsuit demanding the permanent return of the books. They are obviously terrified that by reading about race issues, LGBTQ topics, or other “controversial” subject matter, the innocent youth of Llano County will veer from the straight and narrow path of respectability. What a bunch of embarrassingly ignorant bullshit that is! As if people willingly choose to be completely different from their peers, so they’ll be mocked, persecuted, or even physically assaulted or killed for simply living their lives!

According to CNN:

In the public comment section of the meeting prior to the vote, 15 residents were allowed to give their opinions about closing the library. Eleven of them were in favor of keeping the library open. Another four said they wanted to temporarily close the library until a wide variety of books were removed from the system – substantially more than the 17 books at question in the lawsuit.

Still, Cunningham insists that the books were removed due to a regular “weeding” process, not because of their controversial subject matter. And to that, I say again… BULLSHIT. 😉 I don’t believe that those books– every one of which had controversial subject matter– all just happened to come up for “weeding” at that specific point in time.

Cunningham also stated in the CNN article that the idea of closing the library came up because of the cost of litigation.

“A public library simply cannot function if its librarians, county judge, commissioners and even the volunteers who serve out of the goodness of their heart, can be sued every time a library patron disagrees with a librarian’s weeding decisions,” he said.

Cunningham said the lawsuit has cost the county more than $100,000 and the total library budget is $450,000.

Well then… if county officials want to avoid litigation, they shouldn’t try to weed out books that all have to do with certain “taboo” topics. People sue when they feel like they’ve been treated unfairly. Treat everyone fairly, and with consideration for their rights, and most of the time, you won’t be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. It costs money to sue people, and it takes time. Most people don’t sue others just because it’s “fun”.

Personally, I’m grateful to Americans who aren’t taking the insane extremist actions of political conservatives lying down. Republicans have gone way too far in the era of Trump. Their ideas are not what the majority of Americans want for the country. I see and hear them bandying about the importance of the Constitution (especially the Second Amendment), but they don’t seem to realize that the Constitution is for every American. It’s not just for straight, White, conservative leaning males who have money.

I don’t use libraries much myself these days. I prefer to just buy whatever I want to read. However, there were many times in my life when having access to a library was a Godsend. Libraries should be safe, sacred places for people to expand their minds and access the information they want and need.

No group on either side of the political spectrum should have ANY right to dictate what is, or what is not, appropriate reading material for everyone else. And yes, that goes for the extreme leftists, too, who feel like they need to edit and censor classic books to suit our more “modern thinking”. That’s not cool, either.

politicians, politics, stupid people

I’m so sick of stupid politicians who want to make everyone else stupid, too…

Last night, I came across a petition going around the Internet in response to a bill that has just been presented in Missouri. House Bill 2044, presented by Republican state Representative Ben Baker, is supposedly aiming to “prevent inappropriate sexual content from getting into the hands of kids” by requiring all libraries that receive state funding to have five person “parental library review boards”. The boards would be made up of locally elected officials, who would review content available to children and determine whether or not it’s “appropriate”. The bill also bans state funded libraries from allowing minors to access “age inappropriate” materials. And any librarian that willfully violates the law could be subject to a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.

I was pretty disgusted by the bill, especially since, when I was growing up, I read a lot of stuff that would have been deemed “age inappropriate” by some people. I have always been a reader, and I was fortunate enough to have parents who let me read pretty much whatever I wanted without any interference. If I’m honest, my parents mostly didn’t care what I read and would not have wanted to be bothered with giving their permission to read certain books. Under this proposal, I might have been barred from reading certain books, not because my parents objected, but because they weren’t that interested.

I think that ideally, the people who should be determining what is, and what is not, age appropriate reading for their children are parents, not elected officials, who may be pushing their own agendas. In a state like Missouri, my guess is that the boards would consist of a lot of religious right wing types… you know, the ones who say the government needs to butt out of everyone’s private business (unless it involves a uterus and a developing embryo, that is).

Mr. Baker apparently thinks this measure is necessary, even though librarians already go through extensive training to determine what is and what is not “appropriate” for library collections. The five elected officials on a “parental library review board” are unlikely to have any special training regarding reading materials, but they probably will have their own attitudes and agendas to push.

Says Baker,

“The main thing is I want to be able to take my kids to a library and make sure they’re in a safe environment, and that they’re not gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable material,” Baker told local news station KOAM. “Unfortunately, there are some libraries in the state of Missouri that have done this. And that’s a problem.”

Um… Mr. Baker– as a parent, you are ultimately responsible for making sure your kids are not “gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable material.” It’s not for you or anyone else to determine what is objectionable or unsafe reading for other people’s children. Stay in your lane.

Some people have already expressed outrage over this bill, but Mr. Baker stubbornly argues,

“If the adult wanted to, and said I’m okay with my child reading this or looking at this, then they could check that out, and have that available for their child,” Baker argued. “I just think that we need to be careful about funding something with our taxpayer dollars without parental consent.”

So it should be up to you, and your Republican buddies, to make those decisions for everyone, and they alone should determine what books should be in the children’s section? The ones who think gays and lesbians and transgender people are mentally ill and going to Hell? The ones who promote abstinence education, even though it doesn’t work (just check the teen pregnancy and STI statistics in Republican states where sex education consists solely of abstinence education)? The ones who want to push a Christian agenda in public schools by forcing everyone to pray, and eliminating any discussion of evolution over creationism? And what if some of those “elected officials” turn out to be more liberal than the others and “objectionable material” (by your standards) still slips into the children’s section? Yeah… that sounds like a fine plan for the 21st century. NOT.

I can’t wrap my head around this. We have so many other issues that are far more pressing than book banning in a country that is supposed to be all about freedom of expression. Hell… today’s American school children have to worry about whether or not they’ll survive the school day. Reading a book that might be slightly out of their age range or understanding isn’t the end of the world.

But, as Mr. Baker is “a minister, missionary and former dean of students at Ozark Bible Institute and College”, I guess I can see where his limited world view comes from. I’m sure he’s got no problem with children being exposed to guns and would rather see a couple dozen of them mowed down at school in the name of protecting gun rights than he would want to have them learn about different lifestyles, religious beliefs, and alternative sexual preferences through reading. God forbid we actually teach children to be Christ-like– you know, kind, loving, accepting, forgiving, compassionate, understanding and non-judgmental.

Even though Republicans claim to be about saving taxpayers’ money, they don’t seem to have the tiniest issue with throwing people in jail for non-violent offenses, even though it costs a lot of money to warehouse inmates and affects their ability to earn a living for the rest of their lives. Incarceration also affects their families– especially their children— on many levels! Does Mr. Baker really think it’s worth jailing a highly educated librarian, potentially ruining his or her career, over a young person reading a book like Lady Chatterly’s Lover or Slaughterhouse Five against the elected officials’ wishes? Incidentally, it’s been my experience that kids who really want to read something will find a way to do it. Amazon delivers, y’all… straight to the Kindle, even.

I understand that many Americans think that religious people, particularly those who swing to the right of the political spectrum, are the only type of people who should be making our laws. I guess that being outside of the United States for several years, in a place where religion isn’t the end all be all of all things, has shown me that some people in the United States could really use a mental enema and a trip or two abroad. In any case, I’m sure it’s clear what I think of Mr. Baker’s desire to censor things that offend his tender Republican religious sensibilities. I know some people think religion is a wonderful thing, but the older I get, the more I think that many super religious people should be completely barred from politics.

Bottom line– kids should be encouraged to read as much as they can. And they should have the freedom to read whatever interests them, ideally with parental guidance of course. And it should NOT be up to a group of “five elected officials” who have NO TRAINING whatsoever in library science, but plenty of political and religious agendas, to determine what is “acceptable” for children to read. Republicans are always crowing about how child rearing decisions should be “up to the parents”. Well, this issue is no different. Let parents decide what their kids are allowed to read and trained librarians determine which books belong in the children’s section. “Elected officials” with an obvious religious agenda should stay out of that decision.