No one bans books in America

Last week saw the latest chapter in the fight over the books that public schools have in their libraries. After a week-long debate, the Central Bucks School Board voted 6-3 in favor of a new textbook review policy for inappropriate sexual content. Proponents of having explicit books in children’s libraries have cried out for censorship, drawing parallels with various oppressive regimes around the world.

Here’s the thing, though: No one anywhere in America is banning books. This has been true for longer than most of us have been alive. All of this is a gross exaggeration that belittles the fight against real censorship that is still going on in the world today. China has censorship, with long prison sentences for those who break the law. America no.

The book at the center of this fake firestorm, Gender queer: a memoir, is a graphic novel with images of, among other things, teenagers having oral sex. The couple in question aren’t heterosexual (which is kind of the point of the memoir), but as one concerned parent said at the Central Bucks reunion, such a portrayal should be “inappropriate to have in a library. school. If it was art depicting a heterosexual couple engaging in oral sex, it should also be excluded. Some of the images were so raw that school boards refused to show them – in the very meetings where the book was discussed!

What if you think your child should read this graphic novel? No worries: it’s available for purchase everywhere in America!

As I write this, Amazon lists Gender Queer as the #1 bestseller in LGBTQ+ graphic novels. It’s admittedly a niche category, but it shows that it’s incredibly easy to get your hands on this book. You can get it for $8.99 on Kindle, delivered immediately. Go ahead, watch it yourself.

Part of the protest is hyperbole, but part of it is a genuine misunderstanding of what our rights mean. The First Amendment ensures that the government cannot prevent you from speaking or publishing anything. In this case, Central Bucks abides by this rule. You can get this book — or any other book — at district bookstores and by mail from Amazon and other booksellers.

What you can’t do is force the government to pay for it. That’s how rights work — they preserve our freedom, not subsidize it. A silly sign photographed outside the CBSD meeting read “Ban guns, not books.” Well, you’re half right, sign freaks: the school district can’t ban any of these things. But, at the same time, they can also choose not to have them in their schools.

Even the largest library has its limits, and none can contain more than a small fraction of the world’s literature. In deciding which books to include, a library – especially a school library – must impose some sort of standard. A standard that excludes graphic descriptions of sexual activity seems like a common sense rule. It’s a no-brainer, really. There are millions of books, except for a few of the most explicit, that doesn’t make America a pro-censorship fascist regime – especially since anyone with nine bucks can get away with it. get a copy very easily.

If it’s so easy, why raise the protest to this level of hysteria? Part of it is about control. The people who run public schools have a huge responsibility: to educate the nation’s youth. About nine out of ten children attend public schools, so what they choose to teach there matters. Traditionally, these schools have taught life skills, but they’ve also always included some sort of inculcation in mainstream community values ​​- civics, patriotism and that sort of thing.

When the values ​​taught in a school differ from those practiced in the community that built and funds them, there will be backsliding. And that pushback will lead to countervailing pushback from the professional elite who believe the public has no say in how their community is governed – not when it conflicts with the latest ideas in the courts. higher education, anyway.

Corporate media and professional lefties will rise to this challenge like any other, not because it’s a truly important struggle, but because they were raised in the heroic tales of the civil rights era. and want to feel what their parents (or grandparents) felt. The idea of ​​being ordinary, of not being engaged in a titanic struggle for justice, is simply unbearable for them.

The cause of those days was good, but not all generations are well placed to engage in a great struggle for justice. Selma’s envy of modern southpaws drives them to go into every fight with the same vigor they imagine they would have back then, had they been alive to do so. The right to vote and the fight against segregation were noble fights, things worth fighting for. The right to show children a cartoon of a blowjob? It doesn’t have the same resonance.

Our governments – local, state or federal – do not censor books. To confuse the liberating struggles of the past with the petty quarrels of the present is useless.

Kyle Sammin is Wide + Freedom editor-in-chief.

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