book reviews, condescending twatbags, controversies, religion

Tennessee is the “sophomore” state…

The featured photo is a screenshot from Greg Locke’s book burning video on YouTube.

Last night, I finished reading Maus, the graphic novel by Art Spiegelman that the McMinn County School Board of Tennessee decided to remove from its curriculum for eighth grade students last month. As I have mentioned in several recent posts about Maus, I had not heard of this brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning work until it made the news. It was originally published in its entirety in 1991, having taken Spiegelman thirteen years of work to complete. Portions of the book were published sooner than 1991, with comic strips having been published in the defunct magazine, Raw. I mentioned yesterday that the first volume of Maus was published in 1986. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until Maus was banned by a school board that I finally decided to read it. I’m so glad I did that. I have the good people of McMinn County, Tennessee’s board of education to thank for that, as their decision to ban Maus only made it more attractive to me.

More people should read this… even 8th graders.

Yesterday, my friend Mary Beth commented that she, too, has ordered a copy of Maus to read. She read one of my blog posts about it and discussed book banning with her fifteen year old son. It turns out Mary Beth’s boy is a World War II buff, and Maus is about The Holocaust. When Mary Beth told her son that Maus is a graphic novel, meaning that there are many comic styled pictures, he asked her if he could read it. Mary Beth agreed, and she says they will read the book together.

I passed my copy of the book to Bill, and now he’s just started reading Maus. By my count, that’s already four people who have decided to read a book that school board members in Tennessee have opted to ban. Remember when I wrote about the Streisand effect? Looks like it’s happening. Maus is selling like gangbusters, and lots of people are reading it and passing it on to others. We have Tennessee to thank for that. In a way, those school board members are inadvertently educating people well beyond the borders of McMinn County. In their attempts to quash a remarkable work of literature, the school board has only made it much more popular. Mary Beth says that Maus is still backordered. I see on Amazon.de, it’s no longer backordered, but there aren’t many available copies. It may not be long before Maus is out of stock again.

How did I like the book? I loved it. But it wasn’t just because of the story about The Holocaust. I’ve read a lot of books about The Holocaust, most of which were non-fiction accounts of people who experienced prison camps. What set Maus apart from those books, besides the fact that it’s done in comic strips, was the way Spiegelman managed to capture his father, Vladek, and how his experiences during World War II changed him. First, there was the syntax of Vladek’s speech. Spiegelman managed to capture the broken English that often comes from non-native speakers. One thing I’ve noticed, living in Germany, is that a lot of Germans are quite fluent in English. But sometimes, in spite of knowing English well, their syntax is like it would be if they were speaking German. They use certain expressions and constructions that English speakers don’t typically use. For instance, I notice that a lot of Germans say or write “therefore” and “already” more than Americans do. Or they say things like, “I don’t dare to” instead of “I don’t dare”, or they write “who”, instead of “whoever or whomever”. I remember hearing a German tour guide say, “Who wants to go to the WC can do so now.” A native English speaker would phrase it differently.

Likewise, Art Spiegelman manages to capture the voice of someone who isn’t a native English speaker. He had a lot of experience listening to his father, so he knew just how his dad would put things. He doesn’t write the dialogue the way an American would speak, even though his father spoke English from even before the war. He writes it the way a Polish person would speak English. That technique made Vladek come alive for me. I could practically hear his voice in my head as I read. Not only did I hear his voice, but I could imagine the mood, as if I had him in my head, speaking aloud.

Art Spiegelman also captures many of the quirks that would come from someone who had experienced the trauma of losing everything and being force to live on whatever he could find. As I mentioned earlier, I have read a lot of Holocaust stories. One common thread is that many people who survived the Holocaust could not bear to see things wasted. I read one Holocaust account by a man who used to get furious at his children when they turned their noses up at food that was offered to them. Likewise, Vladek Spiegelman drove his son crazy because he could not throw things away… except things that really were priceless. Vladek throws away Art’s mother’s precious diaries when he has a bad day. But he collects odds and ends– piece of wire, scraps of paper, used nails. He is extremely miserly and doesn’t want to hire anyone to help him with odd jobs around the house, even though he’s not capable of doing the work that needs to be done. Instead, he asks Art to help him, even though Art is busy with his own life and isn’t particularly as handy as Vladek was forced to become. Even as Art expresses annoyance at frustration with his father and his father’s constant demands and idiosyncrasies, his love and concern for Vladek comes through in a moving way.

I think the very truthful interactions between father and son, depicted as mice and rendered in illustrations, are what really touched my heart. There are also elements in humor in Maus that make it less grim than it could have been, even though there are many sad and tragic events in the story. There was so much loss and grief that came from The Holocaust, and yet sometimes there were happy and even humorous moments that kept the human spirit alive. The people who managed to survive the camps and lived to tell their tales were endowed with resilience and luck. Or maybe they weren’t actually the luckiest ones. Art’s mother, Vladek’s first wife, Anja, couldn’t cope. She committed suicide in 1968, and Vladek remarried another Holocaust survivor, Nala, who constantly complained about Vladek’s quirks.

I’m happy that I read Maus. I’m glad others will read it. I’m heartened to know that I influenced at least three people to read the book through my blog, even as I was influenced to read it because some people in Tennessee decided it should be banned. It just goes to show that actions have consequences, but sometimes the consequences turn out to be good things. As I sit here marveling at what I’ve just read, again, courtesy of a school board in right wing Tennessee, I also shake my head at the news that came out of Mount Juliet, Tennessee yesterday. “Pastor” Greg Locke, head of Global Vision Bible Church, is in the news again. This time, it’s because he hosted a massive book burning last week.

I’ve written about Greg Locke a couple of times. A few years ago, when I was still running my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife, I wrote about how Greg Locke cried on camera after he got disgraced in the wake of divorcing his wife after cheating on her with her best friend. Locke called adult film star Stormy Daniels a “hooker”, as he reminded everyone that Trump was still president. I reposted that entry from 2018 last summer, when Locke was in the news again. In July 2021, Locke was in the news again for demanding that his followers attend services unmasked. Locke vowed to kick out anyone in his congregation who showed up wearing a face mask. Then, halfway through one of his videos, Locke launches into an absolutely bat shit crazy anti-liberal rant.

Well, Greg Locke is in the news again because last Wednesday, he invited followers to burn their copies of Twilight and Harry Potter books. Locke claims that the books, as well as any young adult fantasy books, tarot cards, crystals, and voodoo dolls, are of the occult. Locke said,

“Bring all your Harry Potter stuff. Laugh all you want haters. I don’t care. IT’S WITCHCRAFT 100 PERCENT,” Locke said in an Instagram post Monday. “All you [sic] ‘Twilight’ books and movies. That mess is full of spells, demonism, shape-shifting and occultism.”

Shameful.

Why anyone with sense listens to this hateful moron, I will never know. But again, it’s Tennessee, land of Trump love. I mentioned in previous posts that these are the people who clutch their pearls at the word “God damn” in Maus, but will enthusiastically endorse a man who obviously disdains the poor and brags about sexually abusing women. They claim to love Jesus Christ, and yet they behave in ways that are not Christ-like. And they denounce books about supernatural fantasies and creatures, as they believe in the Bible, which is full of stories about violence and supernatural occurrences, and has led to many people being killed in gruesome ways. See Maus for a lesson on that, as Jewish people died for their beliefs.

I was glad to read that there were counterprotestors who showed up at Locke’s book burning. At least one person threw a Bible into the fire. It’s not that I support burning books of any kind, nor am I an atheist. I just think book burning and banning is stupid, and simply leads to the dumbing down of populations. And as I learn more about what’s going on in Tennessee, I realize that in a way, it’s kind of a sophomoric place. You know that word, sophomore, right? It stems from Greek. The word is a blend of sophos, which means “clever or wise”, and moros, which means “moron or fool”. The news out of Tennessee has made me smarter and enriched my life by prompting me to read Maus. And it’s also making me shake my head as I consider the stupidity of a supposed “man of God” live streaming his event that highlights burning books.

Locke blustered,

“We have a constitutional right and a Biblical right to do what we’re going to do tonight,” Locke said in the livestreamed video. “We have a burn permit, but even without one a church has a religious right to burn occultic materials that they deem are a threat to their religious rights and freedoms and belief systems.”

What a shame.

Indeed… and how interesting that this comes up now, as Tennessee has made news over Maus, a wonderful book about a man’s experiences in The Holocaust. Many people who heard about Greg Locke’s book burning were reminded of Nazi Germany, where books were routinely burned. It’s no secret that Greg Locke is a huge supporter of Donald Trump and his ilk. And it’s not lost on me that Trump works a room much like Hitler did, back in the day.

I know people get offended by the comparison of Trump to Hitler. They think it cheapens the horrors that people like Vladek Spiegelman endured in the 1940s. But dammit, Hitler didn’t start his madness by murdering people. He started by whipping up “us vs. them” sentiments and hatred, promoting other-ism and ignorance, and making people think they had the right to be destructive and divisive. Hitler got his start by throwing a figurative lit match into a seething inferno of disenfranchised people who feared losing power and were pushed to the point of murdering those people they considered “undesirable” in the most vicious, horrifying, and brutal of ways.

I really hope an event like The Holocaust doesn’t happen again, but when I read stories like the ones that have been coming out of the United States lately, it really makes me fear for the future. I worry so much about where our country is going, as obviously terrible people like Donald Trump are put in power. Otherwise decent people ignore how terrible he is, just because they get a few extra bucks in their paychecks and, maybe, a lower gas bill at the pump. They ignore his history of fucking people over and being hateful to anyone who doesn’t do his bidding. But what makes me even more frightened is that even if Trump isn’t re-elected, there is no doubt someone younger, more handsome, and much more intelligent waiting in the wings for the right time to emerge. And people like Greg Locke’s followers will be all too ready to embrace that person.

Don’t believe me? Consider that Adolf Hitler got his ideas about The Holocaust after seeing how the world ignored the Armenian Genocide. Armenia, as you know, also has a place in my heart due to the two years I spent there. I had never heard of the Genocide before I lived in Armenia. I now live in Germany, where Hitler carried out his monstrous plans for world domination. If we don’t learn from the atrocities in history, we are doomed to repeat them. See below:

Keep your eyes open, people. This could happen again. What side of history are you going to be on when it does?

I hope that people will remain vigilant and keep reading good books… and not necessarily the Bible. Resist movements that discourage thought, compassion for others, and personal growth. Book burning is not an activity that kind, intelligent, compassionate people engage in doing. It’s certainly not “Christ-like” behavior. As NBC News points out:

Locke’s book burning event comes amid a growing effort to ban certain books from schools. Books about racism and sexuality are being pulled from Texas school shelves in record numbers — a majority of books targeted feature LGBTQ characters or explicit descriptions of sex. Some of the books that aren’t explicit include picture books about Black historical figures and transgender children.

Why is this happening now? Why are schools being targeted? It’s the movement of so-called Christians who want to take over the country. These people– so-called Christians– are really only Christians in name. They aren’t behaving in merciful, compassionate, and kind ways. They are promoting hatred, ignorance, and violence in order to push their moronic agenda.

I mentioned that I think Tennessee is the “sophomore state”. I think there are wise people in Tennessee who can stand up to this craziness. Unfortunately, Tennessee also seems to be a hotbed of people like Greg Locke, who encourage book burning among those who seriously need to read a lot more. Locke and his ilk just want people to be stupid, so they’re easier to manage. So I would certainly advise everyone to keep reading. And yes, I think you should read Harry Potter and Twilight, if that’s what you like to read… and read Maus, too, while you’re at it. I have provided a handy link below. You’ll learn more from reading almost ANYTHING than you ever could from listening to Greg Locke.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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art, controversies, education, funny stories, nostalgia

Creating “trash” to pay for creating a treasure…

I learned something new this morning as I caught up on what happened during the hours in which I slept. It’s my habit to go to the front page of my Google app and read suggested stories. They’re typically offered based on subjects Google has noticed I’ve read. I’ve been reading Maus, thanks to the enhanced publicity of Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel being banned for 8th graders in McMinn County, Tennessee. Maus is a brilliant work of art based on Art Spiegelman’s father’s experiences in The Holocaust. Because I’ve also been reading up on Art Spiegelman, this morning, Google recommended an article from Cracked.com about another one of Spiegelman’s very popular artistic projects from the 80s. It turns out that Art Spiegelman’s work was controversial, and even banned, when I was a 13 year old kid, too.

McMinn County’s school board “explains” why Maus was banned from the curriculum for 8th graders. Art Spiegelman’s work was banned when I was in the 8th grade, too, back in 1985-86. It’s a shame the school board is so short-sighted. Maus is a book that can reach a lot of young people in a positive way.

I’m ashamed to admit that prior to a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of Maus, although it won a Pulitzer Prize, and the first six chapters were released in 1986, when I was fourteen years old. Although I loved Mad Magazine when I was growing up, and Spiegelman was reportedly influenced by Mad, I didn’t read comic books as a rule. Wikipedia tells me that Spiegelman began working on Maus in 1978, and the comics originally appeared in a comic anthology magazine called Raw, which featured alternative comics for adults. Spiegelman was co-editor of Raw, where work by avant-garde artists who were previously unknown was showcased.

In 1985, when I was thirteen and in the 8th grade, Spiegelman heard that Steven Spielberg was making a movie about Jewish mice who escaped persecution in Eastern Europe. Believing that Spielberg’s film An American Tail, was inspired by Maus, which had been appearing in segments in issues of Raw, Spiegelman searched for a publisher who would make the first chapters of Maus available so that his work would not be unfairly compared to Spielberg’s. The first six chapters of Spiegelman’s masterpiece were published in 1986, comprising the first volume of Maus. The unfinished work earned rave reviews from The New York Times, and Spiegelman spent the next five years finishing the book. Incidentally, I have yet to see An American Tail, although I am a fan of the song, “Somewhere Out There”, which was sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, and appeared on the film’s soundtrack. It’s one of my favorite duets to sing on SingSnap. 😉

Maybe it’s time I saw this movie.

Maus took a total of thirteen years to finish and, having spent the last few days reading it, I concur with so many others that it really is wonderful work. But Spiegelman did also have bills to pay as he was designing his masterpiece. So what did he do in those days to make ends meet as he worked on creating Maus? Well, besides teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Spiegelman created a relic from my youth that I remember all too well. Inspired, in part, by the very homely dolls, the Cabbage Patch Kids, which were incredibly popular in the 1980s, Spiegelman and a couple of other guys named Mark Newgarden and John Pound, created trading cards called Garbage Pail Kids.

Garbage Pail Kids first appeared in 1985– again, when I was at the age that the Tennessee eighth graders are at now– and, you guessed it, they caused quite a ruckus. In fact, they were banned in some places. Why were they banned? Well, mainly it was because they were gross, and adults in the 80s were a lot stuffier than they are today. I mean, kids of my era were allowed to do a lot more. We could run amok and be gone for hours every day with no fears that someone would call CPS. We could ride gloriously free of helmets on bikes, and without seatbelts in cars. And there was no such thing as the World Wide Web, so we never had to worry about some of the less savory things that kids today can be exposed to online. BUT– many parents and educators had a HUGE problem with the tasteless Garbage Pail Kids. God forbid kids of the 80s see vulgar comic depictions of a kids doing gross things! We might all turn into hoodlums!

Dan Rather does a report on Art Spiegelman’s controversial art circa 1986…

The trading cards each featured a Garbage Pail kid that had something grotesque and funny “wrong” with it. The characters bore a striking resemblance to the Cabbage Patch Kids, which led to a successful lawsuit. Still, the cards were so popular that they led to a 1987 feature film called The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. There was also a TV series developed based on the characters, but it never aired, due to the extreme controversy surrounding the cards. The article I read on Cracked mentions that the cards made a comeback in the 2000s, but by the time they were back on the market, most people had forgotten about them. And people of the 2000s were much less shocked by comic depictions of kids who looked gross or were doing nasty or vulgar things.

I do remember Garbage Pail Kids, but I never collected them. By the time the movie came out, I was fifteen years old, and totally into my horse. I recall that teachers didn’t like them because they were “distracting”. In fact, I seem to remember that they were so controversial that in 1989, The Cosby Show did an episode loosely based on them, calling them “The Gross Out Gang”. The episode was about youngest child, Rudy, being caught watching a gory horror movie about gross kids that her parents didn’t approve of. Rudy tells her parents that they need to revisit the rules she is forced to abide by, which spawns a fun episode that shows what happens when little girls don’t abide by their parents’ wise counsel.

A clip from The Cosby Show that references “The Gross Out Gang”.

Bill Cosby was practically a god in the 80s, and his show was considered “family friendly” entertainment and “must see TV” on Thursday nights. In those days, there were a lot fewer channels to watch, so a lot of people watched Cosby, not realizing that he was a lot grosser than Garbage Pail Kids or “The Gross Out Gang” could ever be. Ah, but we were so innocent back then. It was much easier for people like Cosby to hide their sins. News didn’t travel as fast, and not everyone had a camera.

It kind of blows my mind that a genius like Art Spiegelman was behind Garbage Pail Kids. But then, I guess in their own way, Garbage Pail Kids were yet another element of Spiegelman’s genius. They were hugely popular, and they no doubt made it possible for Spiegelman to make his mark on the world in a profound way by creating Maus. Isn’t it interesting that Bill Cosby, who is also a genius, but has done some really terrible things to women, was considered “family friendly” to parents of my childhood, but Art Spiegelman, who as far as I know, has never actually harmed anyone, keeps putting out stuff that gets banned? I mean, Cosby has most recently been “canceled” by a lot of people, but he was allowed to influence young people for decades! I remember seeing him on Fat Albert, and The Electric Company, and when he did “Picture Pages”, which I think were featured on Captain Kangaroo and later on Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel.

This man was regarded as the epitome of “family friendly” back in the day. But he was only recently released from prison for drugging and raping Andrea Constand, who was just one of so many women who accused him of sexual assault.

The older I get, the more I think a lot of people have their priorities messed up. I see that the people of McMinn County were heavily in favor of re-electing Donald Trump for president, who has said some things that are definitely not appropriate for kids to hear or read. Why is it that the good people of McMinn don’t have a problem with an admitted pussy grabber in the White House, but they can’t bear the idea of thirteen year old kids seeing a cartoon depiction of suicide or nudity, or reading the word “shit” and “God damn” a few times. I just read the part of Maus in which the word “God damn” was used. It was definitely not used inappropriately, given the context of the situation in the book. Art was furious at his father for destroying his mother’s priceless diaries after he’d had a “bad day”. Since his mother committed suicide in 1968, it made perfect sense that Art would have been outraged enough to curse at his father. And believe me, 13 year olds have heard that particular profanity,— and much worse— a lot. I think the issue is, McMinn County simply doesn’t want its children to be exposed to the truths of the terrible sins perpetrated by supposed white Christians in the not too distant past.

I read in the minutes of the school board meeting in which Maus was removed, one of the points made for removing the book was that students today could be disciplined for using the curse words in the book. However, I would really hope that the adults in these kids’ lives teach them that there are times and places for “objectionable language”. I don’t think thirteen year olds are so innocent that they can’t be taught that the word “God damn”, uttered by a very angry person regarding the Holocaust, during which people were systematically MURDERED, is necessarily inappropriate. Curse words, like it or not, have their uses. I would rather someone curse than commit an act of violence, for instance. I rarely ever heard Bill Cosby curse in his comedy routines and television shows, but he surely did do violent things to women. And Donald Trump–the beloved and heavily supported former POTUS in McMinn County– has both said objectionable words and committed violent acts against women– including his first wife, Ivana, whom he presumably had some regard for at the time, I would hope.

Anyway, I am heartened that people have been outraged that Maus was banned in Tennessee. I’m glad to see that it’s back on the bestseller list, and people like me are buying copies of it and reading it. As I mentioned before, McMinn County is actually inadvertently educating people with its ridiculous condemnation of Art Spiegelman’s great book. Banned books are usually the best ones to read. I’ll bet those old Garbage Pail Kids collections are also going to sell like hotcakes, too. Americans are funny that way.

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musings

“Us vs. them…” a statement on the state of things…

Well, once again, it’s Friday. Bill is coming home today after having been gone for the past few days. I started reading Maus yesterday, after having read about the uproar the book is causing in the United States. I’m about five chapters in so far, and I can already see why it won a Pulitzer Prize. I’ve never been a big comic book person and it never would have occurred to me to read a graphic novel before I heard of Maus. And yet, the drawings and dialogue, which author Art Spiegelman has so cleverly created, have really drawn me in. I forced myself to stop reading last night, because I was afraid I’d get too emotional and have trouble sleeping. I think it helps that Art Spiegelman was influenced by Mad Magazine, which was one of my favorite magazines when I was growing up.

Of course, I also started another book on my Kindle app that is potentially equally upsetting. But I don’t find the subject matter of the e-book quite as horrifying as I do the subject of the Holocaust, which disturbs me on many levels. And it’s mainly because I now live in the country that perpetrated those horrors, as I watch my own country go down a similarly destructive path. I only hope that some day, the United States will heal in the ways Germany has, complete with citizens taking full responsibility for the attitude of disdain and hatred people have for each other and the damage that attitude does.

I really think that Maus is deemed “inappropriate”, not because of the word “God damn” and the prospect of young people looking at mice in the nude, but because most young people are not stupid, and some of them will connect the dots. No, I don’t think it’s gotten to the point at which people are being hauled to camps, starved, and gassed, but I think it’s important to remember that the Holocaust didn’t start that way, either. It started with the “us vs. them” attitude, and a charismatic leader who cast blame on people he deemed “undesirable”. Right under the noses of otherwise decent people, he made it okay to be hateful and cruel, simply due to who people were and their life’s circumstances. It eventually got to the point at which people thought of “them” as non-human.

I think the pandemic kind of adds to this phenomenon. There’s just so much disrespect across the board nowadays. People are fed up with the constant rules, restrictions, sickness, and death. That fatigue crosses over into other things… Not that the rudeness didn’t exist before COVID-19, but it’s gotten much worse. I’ve noticed that if you aren’t squarely on one side of the issue, people assume you’re on the side that isn’t theirs, rather than assuming that maybe you’re in the middle. And they seem to think that makes it okay to attack.

Last night, I was reading about the Maus controversy, and the arguments being presented on both sides were stated in ways that were anything but friendly. One very vociferous man… or, as vociferous as a person can be on the Internet, was insisting that taking Maus out of the curriculum was the right thing to do, since it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for all audiences. Anytime someone argued with him, he basically accused them of being “obtuse” or “stupid”, even if their arguments were intelligent and reasoned. He doggedly took on all comers, too. I didn’t respond to the man myself, since he was just like so many other people I’ve run into– strangers who forget that there are people behind the posts to which he was responding. I don’t enjoy arguing with people I actually know, so I knew I wasn’t wanting to argue with that guy. But I did notice that he had a “Red Wave” vote Republican sign on his profile… which automatically makes me wonder if maybe he wasn’t just projecting.

This level of “disdain” doesn’t just come from conservatives, though. There don’t seem to be many “good guys” who are just moderate and normal, and want things to be fair for everyone. Or, maybe there are people like that, but they are staying quiet. I try to write about these things myself, because I think more people need to read a more centrist view. Before Donald Trump came in and wreaked havoc on the Republican Party, I used to think some of the conservative ideals made good sense. But now, it’s being run by a bunch of religious zealots who think it’s “Christlike” to carry weapons and force people to give birth.

Likewise, I don’t like how liberals try to cram their ideals down everyone’s gullets, self-righteously preaching to anyone who isn’t completely on their bandwagon, and arrogantly acting like they’re superior to those who aren’t “woke”. It takes time to change people’s views, even when the views are considered politically incorrect. A person who has politically incorrect views may not be all bad, though. Sometimes, people evolve. I don’t think it’s helpful to unilaterally condemn people… although both sides of the political spectrum are certainly guilty of that practice.

I admire people who are civil. I wish I were more civil myself. I try to be, and I think I’ve made progress over the past 25 years or so, but I still have a temper and strong sense of what I consider to be right and wrong. Like, for instance, a more civilized person might be more magnanimous toward my husband’s ex wife. There are times when the better part of me looks at her with empathy. I truly am sorry she went through the things she did when she was a child. I wouldn’t wish that for any human being, not just because I don’t like to see people suffer, but also because I know suffering causes people to hurt others. It’s a condition that is as contagious as COVID-19.

I mentioned that I’m only five chapters into Maus, but one thing I immediately noticed was at the very beginning of the book, when Art draws himself as a boy who was left behind at the playground and is deemed a “rotten egg”. He sniffles that his friends abandoned him. His father wisely pointed out that most friends turn less friendly in times of adversity. Lock people up, treat them badly, and take away things they need for survival, or even just comfort, and you’ll soon see them turn against each other, and see each other as less than human. To a much lesser extent, we can see this “us vs. them” attitude in daily life, as each side is convinced that the other wants to take over and make things worse for them. In fairness, though, I can see why each side feels that way. I just happen to lean more toward the left right now, mainly because I truly believe Donald Trump and his most rabid followers are very dangerous people.

But maybe these people have always been out there. I just never noticed them before, because we’ve always had people in charge who had at least a scintilla of decency. Donald Trump is probably the most shameless malignant narcissist who has ever lived in the White House. I don’t even think he believes in a lot of the ideas he pushes. He just says what riles people up. He may find that he’s awakened a beast, because I have a feeling that some of the people he’s agitated may turn on him, and not toward decency and diplomacy.

Anyway… I am just a nobody here in Germany, writing yet another post for my little read blog. I sure would like to see some sun… and it will be good to see Bill, who makes what I do worthwhile. I’ll probably get more into Maus today. If you haven’t read it yourself, I recommend picking up a copy; if you can find one. Besides being very cleverly conceived, I find the interaction between Art and his father, Vladek, very moving. I’m gratified to read it. Maybe I should thank the school board in McMinn County, Tennessee for inadvertently educating me. I doubt I would have been determined to read this book if it weren’t controversial and “banned”.

Stephen King is right.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, poor judgment, rants, Trump

Tennessee school board bans book on Holocaust due to “objectionable language”… now the book is on backorder!

Have you ever heard of the “Streisand effect”? It’s a phenomenon named after the famous singer, Barbra Streisand, whose last name, I notice, is not counted as misspelled as I type it in the editor. I guess she’s arrived, since the dictionary recognizes her name as an actual word!

Anyway, the story goes that back in 2003, Barbra Streisand got good and pissed at the California Coastal Records Project’s decision to photograph her residence in Malibu, California as they were documenting the effects of coastal erosion The photos were intended to influence government policy makers. Streisand was apparently more concerned about her privacy, than the environment. She attempted to suppress the photograph of her estate via legal means, suing photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia for violation of privacy. Before she filed her $50 million lawsuit, meant to get the aerial photo removed from the collection of 12,000 photos of the California coastline, the photo of her mansion had only been downloaded six times. Two of six downloads were by Streisand’s own lawyers.

Word got out about Streisand’s attempts to quash the photo, and over the course of the month following news of the lawsuit, over 420,000 people visited the site where it was posted, and downloaded the picture of Streisand’s coastline property. Instead of managing to suppress the image, the public became much more interested in the photo than they would have if Streisand would have just STFU about it.

That amusing end result of Striesand’s privacy case caused a writer named Mike Malsnick to coin the term, “Streisand effect”, back in 2005, when another notorious photo made the news and became much more popular than it otherwise would have. In that case, the owners of a holiday resort objected to a picture taken of a urinal at their resort, which was uploaded to a site called urinal.net. They sued, and the urinal pic became a lot more noticeable. Malsnick wrote:

“How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect.”

The phenomenon of controversial or “objectionable” things growing in popularity or notoriety after someone has tried to repress or quash them, is now known as the “Streisand effect”. And now, we’re seeing the Streisand effect at work again, thanks to some extremely conservative and misguided school board members in McMinn County, Tennessee, who are in the news because they banned a Pulitzer prize winning comic novel from their school’s 8th grade curriculum. I don’t think their school board vote actually went the way they intended it to go. Now, the Streisand effect is in full force, once again.

Put it this way. Much to my shame, twenty four hours ago, I had never heard of author, Art Spiegelman, nor did I know anything about his much acclaimed 1996 comic novel Maus. As of this morning, not only have I heard of the book, but I have just purchased a copy of it, and it’s now on the way to my house. I will have to wait a short while, because probably thanks to the recent controversy surrounding the McMinn County school board’s decision to ban Maus, there’s been a run on copies of Maus, even in Germany. This means that I am not the only one who felt moved– disgusted– downright pissed off enough about this news to buy the book. I have a feeling Mr. Spiegelman and his publisher will be enjoying the Streisand effect, as people rebel against censorship by purchasing, borrowing, and reading Maus.

I feel really good about buying this book. I am always interested in learning more about the Holocaust, especially since it was not an event that was extensively covered when I went to public school in Virginia, back in the 80s. I have learned a lot about the Holocaust on my own, having read a lot of true stories about it and watched many videos made by survivors and their descendants about that very dark period in world history. I don’t usually read a lot of novels anymore, mainly because I prefer non-fiction. However, as a former English major, I know that novels can and do have their place in teaching people about the human condition. This is a graphic novel, so that means there are comic illustrations, which I know Bill will appreciate. I probably will, too, although I am not as much into art as he is. Spiegelman has used cats to depict Germans and mice to depict Jews during the Holocaust, which I think is a very intriguing concept.

But even if it turns out I don’t learn from or enjoy reading Maus, I still feel fine about buying it, because seriously, fuck that school board in McMinn County. Below is the passage from the news article I linked that made me say to Bill, “That does it. I’m buying a copy of the book!”

As reported by The Tennessee Holler and The Guardian, the McMinn County School board voted 10-0 to ban Maus from all of its schools, citing the book’s inclusion of words like “God damn” and “naked pictures” of women. Apparently, the school board discussed the possibility of simply redacting words and images it found inappropriate, though ultimately opted to ban the book outright. When reached for comment by The Tennessee Holler, the board claimed that the book being about the Holocaust had nothing to do with why it was banned.

“Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy… I am not denying it was horrible, brutal and cruel,” one board member said. “It’s like when you’re watching TV and a cuss word or nude scene comes on it would be the same movie without it. Well, this would be the same book without it… If I had a child in the eighth grade, this ain’t happening. If I had to move him out and homeschool him or put him somewhere else, this is not happening.”

I am so sick of these types of small-town, power-wielding, world-perspective limited people, who feel like they need to censor or ban things for everyone, because they are personally “offended” by language or nudity or things they consider “gross”, “inappropriate”, or “pornographic”. Especially when it turns out that the things they wish to ban aren’t actually any of those things, but instead offer real opportunities for education and enlightenment. Instead of trying to understand the “objectionable” viewpoint or perspective, they opt to just ban it and label it indecent or offensive.

Regular readers of my blog may recall that last month, I got good and fired up when popular YouTuber Mama Doctor Jones got mentioned in an Alaska school board meeting because a progressive educator linked to some of her videos as a means of teaching youngsters about sex. People in that meeting were equating Mama Doctor Jones’ very informative and scientifically based videos to porn! It was outrageous and offensive to me, and if I were a parent in that school district, I would be raising all kinds of hell about it locally, instead of just on my blog.

What really puzzles me is that these folks in Tennessee and Alaska, so outraged by books like Maus, which is a comic representation of Art Spiegelman’s father’s experiences in the Holocaust, or videos by actual board certified OB-GYN Mama Doctor Jones, are NOT AT ALL OFFENDED by Donald Trump’s disgusting treatment of women, minorities, employees, or anyone else who can’t do anything for him. Seriously, y’all… their hero, Donald Trump, had no trouble whatsoever offending the world with his narcissistic, misogynistic, racist, lying bullshit. Where was their outrage when they heard about Donald Trump grabbing women by the pussy?

The conservatives in Alaska and Tennessee who are clutching their pearls over words like “God damn”, nude illustrations, and frank and fact based discussion about sex, pregnancy, birth control, and abortion, don’t care at all that their orange, tiny-handed, hero would happily grab the younger and prettier women in their midst “by the pussy” if he felt like it, because he’s a “star”. Below is an actual transcript of what former President Donald Trump said in 2005 about a beautiful married woman he once pursued:

Donald J. Trump: You know and …

Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.

She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —

I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.

Trump: Whoa! Whoa!

Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

[Crosstalk]

Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.

[Crosstalk]

Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.

[Silence]

Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s —

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Am I really to believe that Maus is more offensive and inappropriate than Trump is? Am I to believe that thirteen year olds, who have already heard all of the bad words from their own former president, no less, and are now at an age at which they can reproduce, should be “protected” from Mama Doctor Jones’ content because some claim it’s akin to “porn”, or Art Spiegelman’s brilliant book about one of the worst tragedies in human history, because of nudity and words like “God damn”? Um… I’ve got a news flash for these people. Censorship does not prevent people from being exposed to objectionable content.

Look at Josh Duggar. He grew up in a famously conservative family that was chronicled on reality TV. His parents were held up as paragons. They claimed to be very strict about keeping their children from objectionable content in television, books, music, and yes, the Internet. Need I remind everyone where Josh Duggar is right now and why he’s there?

Seriously…

I’m not trying to imply that Josh Duggar wouldn’t be a sex offender if his parents hadn’t been so controlling. He might just be wired that way. What I am saying is that banning “objectionable content” tends to make it forbidden fruit– more attractive to the masses. Perverts are gonna perv. I think it’s better for parents and educators to be open-minded and provide constructive and supportive guidance to their children when they are presented with challenging or potentially offensive material, rather than just quashing it. And that goes for both sides of the spectrum. I don’t like the “cancel culture” so often embraced by left wingers, either.

Censorship doesn’t work. Throughout history, people who have championed book banning are not remembered as the “good guys” who truly have everyone’s best interests at heart. The timing of this decision is especially offensive, as yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I expect to have Maus in my hot little hands next month. I look forward to reading it for myself and sharing my thoughts about it. I’m glad that, at least for the time being, I still have the right to make that decision for myself. And I am heartened by people like Wil Wheaton, who have pledged to make this book available to people in McMinn County by buying a couple of copies and asking the book store owners to give them freely to people who ask for them. It was Wil Wheaton’s thoughtful post on this situation that got me to learn more about it this morning.

Many thanks to Wil Wheaton for being one of the “good guys”.

So cheers to the Streisand effect. I hope Art Spiegelman enjoys the unintended consequences of small-minded people serving on the school board in Tennessee. Like Wil Wheaton, I get pissed off by “authoritarian bullshit”. I try to fight the power whenever I can. I hope many other people will join me. I’ll help by providing an Amazon link to Spiegelman’s masterpiece, Maus. If you purchase through the link on my page, I will get a small commission from Amazon. That would be nice for me, but even if you just want to check it out of the library, I would highly recommend doing that. Fuck the powers that be!

A little mood music for this post.

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