The Library And The Culture War

Over the years, I have come to admire two professions above most others: social workers and librarians. The social workers I’ve come to know are simply wonderful human beings–compassionate, caring and non-judgmental. (If we admire traits we personally lack, that would explain my awe about that “non-judgmental” thing…) The librarians I know are dedicated protectors of the First Amendment, and absolutely fearless defenders of our right as individuals to access whatever information interests us.

The traits of both professions are obviously anathema to the White Christian Nationalists who control today’s GOP . Those culture warriors are especially intent upon controlling what other people can read, and that single-minded devotion to cultural control brings them into fairly regular conflict with librarians and the mission of the nation’s libraries, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked by a recent headline from The Guardian: US library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books.’

A small-town library is at risk of shutting down after residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted to defund it rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ+-themed books.

Residents voted on Tuesday to block a renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Bridge Michigan reported.

 The vote leaves the library with funds through the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used up, it would be forced to close, Larry Walton, the library board’s president, told Bridge Michigan – harming not just readers but the community at large. Beyond books, residents visit the library for its wifi, he said, and it houses the very room where the vote took place.

“Our libraries are places to read, places to gather, places to socialize, places to study, places to learn. I mean, they’re the heart of every community,” Deborah Mikula, executive director of the Michigan Library Association, told the Guardian. “So how can you lose that?”

What was the library’s sin? It refused to remove materials about sexual orientation from its shelves–materials that the residents asserted were “grooming” children to adopt a “gay lifestyle.”

The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, dozens showed up at library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

One library director resigned, telling Bridge she had been harassed and accused of indoctrinating kids; her successor, Matt Lawrence, also left the job. Though the library put Kobabe’s book behind the counter rather than on the shelves, the volumes remained available.

“We, the board, will not ban the books,” Walton told Associated Press on Thursday….

The library’s refusal to submit to the demands led to a campaign urging residents to vote against renewed funding for the library. A group calling itself Jamestown Conservatives handed out flyers condemning Gender Queer for showing “extremely graphic sexual illustrations of two people of the same gender”, criticizing a library director who “promoted the LGBTQ ideology” and calling for making the library “a safe and neutral place for our kids”. On Facebook, the group says it exists to “keep our children safe, and protect their purity, as well as to keep the nuclear family intact as God designed”.

I’m sure the person who wrote that had spoken to God personally about the threat. (That’s sarcasm. I admitted I’m judgmental…)

Apparently, libraries across the country are facing a surge in similar demands to ban books. The American Library Association has identified 729 challenges to “library, school and university materials and services” just in the last year–and an estimated 1,600 challenges or removals of individual books. That figure was up from 273 books the year before.

“We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, head of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom, told the Guardian last year.

There is certainly “grooming” going on, but those responsible aren’t trying to sell small children on the glories of homosexuality, or destroy what’s left of the nuclear family. The real “grooming” has been done by hate-mongers like Alex Jones, the late and non-lamented Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson and his fellow-travelers on Fox News–aided and abetted by fundamentalist churches and  various Rightwing organizations.

The GOP’s groomers play to the racism, misogyny and homophobia of their White Christian Nationalist base, encouraging them to direct their hysterical fear of cultural change at the nation’s libraries.

In this fight, my money is on the librarians.


  1. Yesterday we saw where this kind of book banning can end. Salmon Rushdie was critically wounded by a true believer in front of a crowd. True believers can do a lot of harm. They are dangerous and need to be stopped.

  2. I know Southern Baptists aren’t necessarily right wing christian nationalists, but many are including leadership. Perhaps they need to clean up their own congregations before going after public libraries. Perhaps the DOJ can help.

  3. Has anybody been around older adults who repressed discussions about sex during their earlier years? The puritans? Highly religious?

    Once their minds start to atrophy, those repressive thoughts take them over. The shadow, as CG Jung would say, begins to take over.

    These people who obsess over what occurs in other people’s bedrooms send up red flags about themselves. The Catholic church has enough examples of what happens when humans repress their sexual instincts.

    Further, these religious fanatics have been manipulated by GOP leadership because they vote regularly and can be counted on to vote R.

    We’ve been manipulating and banning information for a long time. Look at what Mitch Daniels did to Howard Zinn’s literature. Do you think that was an exception?

    We are moving into the late stages of capitalism, and the oligarchy (Koch Network) will do anything in its power to win. Even propagate fears among the least desirable in our tribe. Anything for a victory against the “democratic devils.”

  4. Just as we can choose to break laws and commit crimes or follow the laws in place to protect us from criminal acts; we can choose which books to read or leave on the shelves. Or skip over those sexual parts. I have never read anything Salmon Rushdie has written but was appalled and saddened yesterday to see the news of his life threatening attack. Years ago, I loaned my teenage babysitter my copy of “Gone With The Wind”; her mother made her immediately return it and tell me she didn’t want her daughter reading that “dirty book”. Those who are so determined to remove “To Kill A Mockingbird” from all bookshelves need to read the sequel “Go Set A Watchman” to learn the true story behind Atticus Finch’s character. The Bible is filled with killing and sex from the time of the “First Family” murder when Cain slew Abel, both married to women with no information where they came from. Only Adam and Eve had been created and produced Cain and Abel; they must also have produced wives for their sons which would require incestuous relations to create the beginning of the “tribes” beget throughout the Scriptures. We might want to consider removing dictionaries; filled with definitions and descriptions of criminal activities and sexual preferences and acts. Just sayin’

  5. Yes, Terry, the SBC leadership has their hands full now with the DoJ investigation. I expect this will branch out to more investigations by the DoJ into other religious institutions being used in complicity with the sex trade and smuggling of humans.

    You would think the Department of Homeland Security would also be under investigation considering all the nefarious activities occurring on the border and in detention facilities.

    If you notice, now the GOP, who usually embrace authoritative institutions, are calling for the defunding of the FBI since the Trump investigation.

    This is what happens when political parties decay into reactionary institutions. SCOTUS is another example of decay. The corruption of capitalism via the oligarchy has hallowed all US institutions.

  6. Vernon added a Fun Fact to his Facebook page; look it up for a possible explanation for many of our problems today. His Fun Fact was the definition of the word “deuterostomes” which traces vital human embryonic development. Wikipedia provided the time frame for the progressive development.

    Thanks Vern for the information and the biggest laugh in a long time.

  7. Joann Green has it right. The righteous right feels they have all the answers as to how we should live, and what we have access to.

    Murder and incest are narrated in the very first book in the bible, the book that they claim is their credo. They seem to forget that book tells of the Original Sin. I suspect they have never read past that part, to read in the good book, when, why, how and what for that God sent his only son to save the people. If they read what Jesus did and tried to live by those acts, oh what a wonderful world this would be.
    Hypocrite +Christian = hypochristian

  8. Don’t be complacent in your research…this is a global phenomenon, and it’s not just Christian far-right. It’s Neo-Nazis.

    I believe some of our former posters warned of the rising of yet another Reich. As a country, we’ve been very supportive of far-right leadership using force to extract resources from countries that were formerly socialist.

    As Americans, we should ask who exactly we are sending arms to in Ukraine when IGs say over 40% immediately go into the black market.

    To whom/what exactly?

    Italy faces the threat of a far-right government

  9. The brand of right wing Christianity is a brand of magical thinking. (“Jesus came into my heart.”)
    Therefore, the brain so conditioned believes that a closed book they have never touched, high on a shelf, will contain smudges of ink that can create a miasma which will turn them “queer.”

    Magical thinking of that type is self-reinforcing, and very difficult to remove. As Methodist Bishop Weldmon said, “One does not remove from a man’s mind with reason that which reason did not put there in the first place.”

  10. When people are made to fear learning, the truth, and each other, nothing but trouble is on their horizon.

  11. Once again, Todd, your comment on sexually repressive Seniors is not based on reality. Ask anyone at senior living facilities about geriatric sex, and you’ll be told there are some pretty hot sheets there, and one of the highest rates of STDs for any age group.

  12. The book, Gender Queer is a new favorite culture war attack point so no surprise that was the first book targeted. What does surprise me and shouldn’t, is that culture warriors will vote against their own, and their communities best interest. This is like killing the patient to get rid of a the wart.

    I am a big fan of libraries and I think they are the best thing since sliced bread. You are absolutely correct that they provide all kinds of services, but people often forget that the historical reason communities thought libraries were important enough to fund with tax payer dollars, is that the existence of a library raises the education level of the community.

    But then again, if you are determined to wage the Republican christain nationalist’s culture wars, an educated populace is not what you want. It is sad, but from a certain point of view this might seem like a win-win situation.

  13. So, I’m  Social Work trained , now retired, psychotherapist, and it just so happens that yesterday I attended my first focus group at our township library.  When the moderator asked what motivated any of us to attend, I said that itwas just these kinds of attacks on libraries and schools.  I did not say “imbecilic” attacks, but there you have a window into my judgementalism.  Not that I’ve hidden it in prior comments here.  Still, I’ll withhold my vitriol.  I do not know if anyone here connected to the link I sent, yesterday: it was to a  filmingof an American Nazi gathering of 22,000 of our once fellow citizens, at the old Madison Square Graden, in NYC,in 1939, just months before Hitler invaded Poland.   You know, the party that burned books in Europe.  We’ve had fools burn Harry Potter books in the U.S.  Returning to yesterday’s focus group, a woman there in the same capacity as I, just an interested citizen, but also a minister to children, mentioned that as a child her mother, who was very religious had forbidden her to read “The Wizard of Oz.”  She sought it out quickly, she said.At MSG there were 22,000 Nzis in attendance, at Trump’s rallies there are thousands more. The MSG film of the NaziParty gathering is only 7 minutes, and the link ought to be available in yesterday’s  responses.

  14. Please bring your article “on home” by speaking to the librarians and writing about what happened at the Jennings County, Indiana library earlier this summer.

  15. T Smekens:” who exactly we are sending arms to in Ukraine when IGs say over 40% immediately go into the black market.”

    That’s not a bug,it’s a feature. One should ask why our political class is willing to use to terrorists,nazis, etc to further their agendas. Ukraine will see much less of those billions from the U.S. Treasury ordered by Biden. The MIC, and IC will get those monies on the premise they will give back a portion to keep the political machine operating.

  16. small minds in a small town sink the library for thier own needs. shut knowlege out,direct the masses to those small minds,and ignorance will prevail. social media,sure does a bang up indoctrinating into groups that shold be labeled subversive. like the dewey decimal system,social media should have such a system. someone who surfs the social media(i dont social media),noted to me long ago,how the foremat at times will open to a opposite view,and drop you into the conversation. i beleive our minds are still develpoing for the human need,and self preservation. unfortunatly its directed by AI and such from social media form. face to face over the eons have made us a civilized(somewhat) society. now we have trolls and wannbes and glaring ignorance directing the masses hidden(bots to) electronically. social media has become the foundation of control in areas where we should be educated to recognized the other side and its deceit. the human mind is being wasted by the process and allows the trolls to gleefully(like trump) to get off… some people i converse with say i have a manson like stare when the ignorance hits my ears. i sure enjoy that kickback.. (you cant see that on social media)
    our democracy is in our hands,we only,may, have a few elections to turn this around. one aspect is control the conversation,and never allow a blow hard to determine that our freedom should be based on their principal of ignorance and to give up what million of other Americans died for. i will defend my country from invaders both foreign and republican. 1/18/1972

  17. politco: today
    blake master could be the first “based”senator.
    gets to the heart of social medias rising thug.

  18. Guess what book all the kids in Jamestown, Michigan are dying to get their hands on?

    I have a bumper sticker on my car that reads: “A banned book is a book worth reading.”

    As a former teacher and mental health counselor, I can report that the term “grooming” as used in this book-banning context, is not being used correctly. Not to mention that you can “groom” someone into a lifestyle. It’s obvious that these book-Nazis are grasping for terms that they know nothing about to use as “talking points.”

    And “Gone with the Wind” is “dirty”?!?!? I’ve read it 3x and don’t remember ant dirty parts. Guess I’ll have to go back and read it again.
    After all, tomorrow is another day! 😉

  19. JoAnn, I loved GO SET A WATCHMAN and was appalled the reviewers did not read it before they judged it.
    Indeed, an evangelical I know did not know what the biblical reference was.
    I am no scholar, but I understood what Atticus was trying to do by becoming a clan member:
    know thy enemy

  20. Apparently, this board is being challenged on its mission. The fact that they moved the books behind the desk speaks to their competence.

    Sexually graphic novels are available at the nearest adult book store, so there is no abridgement of the First Amendment. There are some differences in values judgments that need to be worked out.

    I just wonder what the library’s mission is.

  21. Can I start a movement to ban poorly written books? Before you ask, yes I get to decide.

  22. Interesting discussion. We live in a world of free choice. When I go to the library I usually have a topic in mind for the book I am looking to read. I would think most people do the same.

    Libraries allow for transfer of knowledge from different eras of time to today. Knowledge is power and there is nothing to fear. If a book offends us we can put it back on the shelf and another read, Banning books is not the answer.

  23. I just dipped into Facebook for the first time in months. No, I have not missed it. But, now I am asking for help. I’d like to read the ‘fun fact’ from Vernon that was mentioned earlier today. Is there someway it can be accessed? There were very many Vernon Turners listed by FB, so didn’t get into that. Found none of his books, I think, on either Amazon .ca or .com. So, I appear to be stymied. Thanks to any of you having the time to lend a hand! Thanks, NVL, also known as Nancy.

  24. This anecdote popped into my mind when I read the first paragraph. Twenty some years ago the school social worker asked me, the school library media specialist, to order a book for her. It was a nonfiction book that she wanted to use in counseling LGBTQ students. The book met our standards for selection and I ordered it. A man in our department, named John Kern, whose job was computer hardware, saw the book on my school’s delivery shelf in the venue now known as the Bottleworks. He complained to our ultimate boss. I argued up the chain of command and lost the battle. Still makes me angry.

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