Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book burning... a ghastly demand made by ghastly people.

What is it with religious right-wingers and burning books?

That's the demand being put forth by some right-wing-nuts in a small town in Wisconsin. It seems the local library had the nerve to put some books on the shelves of the public library. Books that dealt with some fairly controversial issues. Specifically books that talked at length and in detail about homosexuality.

These books were written about, and targeted for, young adults, and were correctly placed in the young adult section. You can find these books at most libraries across the country, and find them in the young adult section. You see... it's a library. A public library. Its responsibility is to offer reading material to the public community. It is not responsible for censoring the content of that material or restricting access to that material based on arbitrary moral decisions demanded by religious authority.

Unfortunately too many of the residents of West Bend, WI don't fully understand the First Amendment, nor do they fully grasp the slippery slope they are planting their moral flag upon. And if that's not bad enough, they can't be bothered to simply voice their opinions... no, in traditional christian fashion, they must resort to threats of violence and damage to public property. It's a long-standing religious tradition: "believe what I believe or I'll beat the shit out of you".

Interestingly, the two people who started this whole mess, Jim and Ginny Maziarka, while totally ridiculous for believing they have the right to impress their morality on the community at large, are not the most unreasonable. They disagreed with the content, and petitioned that it should be placed in the "adult" section and marked as "sexually explicit". While completely wrong in that assessment, the request is not inappropriate and they went about it the right way. They even asked the library, if nothing else, to offer books that affirm hetero-sexuality. This is also not an unreasonable request, assuming those books do not incite hatred and violence against the homosexual community (or ANY community for that matter). I'm always in favor of libraries offering as many varied opinions on a topic as possible.

Ginny Maziarka began blogging about the issue, and that brought the righteously batshit crazy out of the woodwork... and that's where things start to get surreal. People began calling for the jobs of the library board... one man stood up during a meeting on the subject and told the library director he should be tarred and feathered! Another man, Robert Braun, who is 74 and a professed staunch christian, actually filed a claim along with 4 other "elderly" men to have the book burned! In the 21st century we actually have adult men calling for book-burnings.

Anger, hatred, violence, and destruction. That's the christian response to that with which they do not agree. It has been that way for 2000 years and shows no signs of changing. And burning books is the absolute worst form of ignorance and censorship, and is generally an action reserved for only the most hate-filled, vile idiots among us. I've said this before, but this is why I have such a problem with religious accomodationists. Religion can't be happy to leave the rest of us alone... it insists itself... its self-serving morality and dogma, upon everyone else, and does so often violently.

Thankfully, we continue to educate people in this country... and the tide is beginning to turn. The elderly, hateful christian fundamentalists like Mr. Braun are slowly dying out... and more and more we are seeing people stand up for rational, intelligent action and behavior. For example, in this case we have Maria Hanrahan, who started her own blog in opposition to that of Ginny Maziarka, calling for free speech and parental responsibility for what their children read and learn about. Her quote is what I would expect from a rational, intelligent person:

"I'm against any other party telling me what's appropriate for my child and what isn't," said Hanrahan, 40, who also created a West Bend Parents for Free Speech group. "We don't mean to say these are appropriate for everyone, but we don't feel they should be set apart from other materials or restricted from the young-adult section."
We need more of that type of intelligent discourse from our vocal citizens. Too often it's the angry, hate filled mob that have the loudest voice and brightest spotlight... It's good to see a shining light like Maria Hanrahan glowing in the darkness.

The good news: the library board voted to keep the controversial books right where they are. It was the only correct decision.

The bad news: in typical fashion, the city council voted not to renew the board members when their current terms expire. Which means the city could put new board members in place that could then decide to restrict access to the books or remove them altogether.

I hope they do, because thanks to people like Maria Hanrahan it looks like they'll have a legal fight on their hands... one that they shouldn't, and won't, win. Good for her. I said it a few posts earlier... it's about damn time we grew up as a society.


By the way, if any of you are interested, the two main books in question are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and Baby be-bop by Francesca Lia Block. Neither has ever been classified as "adult" or "sexually explicit" by any official authority.

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