A ban on books in the “land of the free”

May 18, 2024 | taken from Rebelion.org | Sources: El Colectivo (Medellín) – Rebelion

https://rebelion.org/prohicion-de-libros-en-el-pais-de-la-libertad/

Such censorship practices were sparked in 1982, when a New York school board withdrew the books on the grounds that their authors were “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain disgusting.” the banning of books and authors across the United States has been such that in 2023, 4,240 titles were removed from school libraries, which represents an increase of 65% compared to 2022, the year when 2,571 were banned titles have been banned in 41 states, affecting millions of children and young people.

The attack on books has become part of the political agenda of organized groups, which are linked to the Republican Party. To a lesser extent, there is censorship in the name of politics regarding certain gender issues and sex.

Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida, have enacted laws officially restricting books in schools whose content is considered obscene or dangerous based on race, gender, class, or sex. Books that deal with racism, the exclusion of the black population, sexual violence or which simply talk about sexual relations, alcohol consumption or social inequalities are prohibited.

Those who promote censorship organize themselves into groups, in principle composed of a few belligerent and ignorant people, who point out the books they want to remove from schools. These new Inquisitors have developed a kind of black book, in which a list of books with “obscene or offensive passages” highlighted, which should be removed from circulation in educational institutions. When A parent reports a book as inappropriate, pornographic or dangerous. it must be immediately removed from the school library, until the school board determines whether or not the text is inappropriate.

The national movement that started as a Facebook group in Florida is called “Moms for Freedom”. Its objective is to fight “for the survival of America (United States), unify, educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of educational institutions. And that means choosing candidates to represent them on the Educational committees in each school. Their interests are those of the extreme right, with their retrograde conceptions in social, cultural and educational matters, based on those who defend racism, discrimination, inequality, violence and oppression in all its forms and expressions.

Modern censors, using sophisticated digital technologies, invite parents to create an account on (anti)social networks in which they document examples of indoctrination to make the community aware of the “wicked and evil” ideas found in these works. They provide them with a model letter to send to different representatives. This has immediate effects, since, for example, in Florida schools, anyone can request to remove a book and immediately remove it from the shelf.

The book ban became part of the election manifestos of GOP gubernatorial candidates (Republicans), and some of them won. So, in 2020, Glenn Youngkin was elected governor of Virginia. He announced during the election campaign that he would ban lessons on racism from the state’s school curriculum. This example was then taken up by other candidates, then by governors.

Ron DeSantis, current governor of Florida, and who was the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, is leading in his campaign against books and education. In March 2022, he signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the Don’t Say Gay, Gay, which prohibits the distribution of information and discussion about sexual orientation before the age of eleven. Discussions of racism and slavery have been restricted, and a position teaching African-American history for children under 18 is banned. The law states that parents can sue teachers who do not comply with the requirements set out in the law.

This generates fear and self-censorship among teachers who can no longer talk about practically anything or show objects that could be considered inappropriate. In this regard, and in a tragicomic affair, a school in Tallahasee, the capital of the state of Florida, was expelled from his position a teacher who showed photographs of Michelangelo’s David, in a course of ‘art.

The list of banned books and authors is and the reasons given for restricting the reading of some or all of these works are striking in their ridiculousness and stupidity, which sheds light on their intentions and the intellectual level reached in the United States, the country of freedom “. Between The authors who have been banned in this country form a list which has nothing to envy of that of the Holy Inquisition. Authors of the stature of William Shakespeare, Gabriel García Márquez, Mark Twain, Gustave Flaubert, John Milton, Aldous Huxley, Fyodor Dostoyevsky are targeted. Most of the banned authors come from the United States. Among the most infamous cases is that of Toni Morrison, a woman and a black woman who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

The level of censors is measured by the reasons given for banning books, as some examples show: The Little Red Riding Hood because she has wine in the basket she is carrying for Grandma; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer of Mark Twain, because he is morally questionable; “Too much sex” is invoked to ban Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; Blue Eyeswritten by Toni Morrison, was censored because it was considered sexually explicit and because it discusses child sexual abuse… On the other hand, My Kampf of Adolf Hitler has never been withdrawn from circulation, nor banned from schools.

The book ban specifically targets books that speak to poverty, class difference, racism, and look at U.S. history and society with critical perspectives. In the logic of the censors, neither capitalism, nor the free market, nor the various forms of oppression that exist in the United States and that this country imposes on the rest of the world can be called into question. Most parents are convinced, based on their conservative beliefs and ideological and cultural biases, that alternative viewpoints cannot be offered to students who question the way America works and inform on this other history of the “land of the free”, that is to say that of oppression, injustice and inequality.

Published in print in El Colectivo (Medellín), April 2024

Rebelión has published this article with the permission of the author under a Creative Commons license, respecting his freedom to publish it in other sources.

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