Changing The World–For Better Or Worse

Most readers of this blog are probably familiar with that famous quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If you are inclined to doubt that observation–inclined to dismiss as ineffective the efforts of small numbers of activists–I’ve got news for you. 

Very small groups of people can have a very large impact, for good or not-so-good. Case in point: those proliferating book bans.

The Washington Post recently did a “deep dive” into the growing number of parental challenges to books in the nation’s classrooms and school libraries, and they found something counter-intuitive and very interesting. It turns out that a large percentage of the complaints come from “a minuscule number of hyperactive adults.”

And when the Post says “small,” it means small.The majority of the 1,000-plus book challenges analyzed by The Post were filed by just 11 people.

The Post requested copies of all book challenges filed in the 2021-2022 school year with the 153 school districts that Tasslyn Magnusson, a researcher employed by free expression advocacy group PEN America, tracked as receiving formal requests to remove books last school year. In total, officials in more than 100 of those school systems, which are spread across 37 states, provided 1,065 complaints totaling 2,506 pages.

Other findings from the Post’s investigation are unsurprising–the great majority of challenges focused on books with LGBTQ content, followed by those dealing with race.

The Post analyzed the complaints to determine who was challenging the books, what kinds of books drew objections and why. Nearly half of filings — 43 percent — targeted titles with LGBTQ characters or themes, while 36 percent targeted titles featuring characters of color or dealing with issues of race and racism. The top reason people challenged books was “sexual” content; 61 percent of challenges referenced this concern.

The people filing these objections evidently consider the identification of gender to be “sexual.” And I suppose any mention of race is “woke” and evidence of the incursion of that dreaded Critical Race Theory (which none of its critics can define).

In nearly 20 percent of the challenges, petitioners wrote that they wanted texts pulled from shelves because the titles depict lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, homosexual, transgender or nonbinary lives. Many challengers wrote that reading books about LGBTQ people could cause children to alter their sexuality or gender.
“The theme or purpose of this book is to confuse our children and get them to question whether they are a boy or a girl,” a North Carolina challenger wrote of “Call Me Max,” which centers on a transgender boy.

The objections are to “sexual” content, but the Post reports that in “37 percent of objections against LGBTQ titles, challengers wrote they believed the books should not remain in libraries specifically because they feature LGBTQ lives or stories.”

The article is lengthy and very informative, but I continue to be fixated on that finding that, essentially, eleven people have managed to terrify teachers and librarians, exclude books (many of which have been read by students for decades without appreciably increasing the population of gays and lesbians or triggering psychotic episodes of racial regret…), and producing an enormous national culture war debate centering on censorship.

This is our political problem in a nutshell. The MAGA Republicans who are making government difficult or impossible represent distinct minorities of Americans. A significant number of the gerrymandered Congressional districts that send whack-a-doodles to Washington wouldn’t be safe for the GOP if most of the Democrats in that district came out to vote. 

We bemoan the disproportionate influence of Fox “News” and its clones, but the  audience for Rightwing media is a small proportion of the overall number of American viewers. 

I keep insisting that if enough Democrats and sane Independents get sufficiently active, we can lance the MAGA boil–and I am increasingly convinced that “enough” just requires a relatively small activist base that focuses on a much bigger number: voter turnout.

Or look at it from another angle: If every Democrat and disaffected Republican could identify and register just one previously apathetic non-voter, and could get that non-voter to the polls, reasonable people could retake America, and we could return to the days of (relatively) boring arguments about policy.

Margaret Mead was right: the actions of small groups of thoughtful, committed Americans can send the MAGA warriors to wherever it was that former Americans sent the Whigs.


  1. There must be a reason the DNC doesn’t invest in Indiana, and there is a reason the Indiana Democratic Party doesn’t rally enough Democrats to vote.

    I’m assuming the gerrymandered districts prevent a victory no matter what. If that’s not the case, the IDP needs new leadership. I’ve never received one piece of literature from them. They organize parades, but I’ve never witnessed any marketing for candidates.

    On another note, our local DHQ requires a 10% kickback to the party from candidates running and has NO transparency on where they spend the money. So, even before getting elected into the position, you must pay 10% of your expected annual pay.

    Talk about deterrents to running for office!

  2. It took 20% of the RNC to change this country and the world, by ignoring the 80% of the RNC who voted against Donald Trump as their presidential nominee in 2016. I watched the Republican Convention Roll Call for all 50 states and its territories. Each state and territory submitted votes for the many various candidates and were immediately switched to submit all votes for Donald Trump. History will read the results of that convention as total support of an unstable, known sexual offender and his criminal business tactics as having full support throughout this country. Small percentages for other candidates added together and given to Trump by the RNC put the election into the hands of state Electoral Colleges before the campaign was completed and the 2016 election was held.

    Yes; small numbers can make a difference, especially when they are added together and submitted as the total of a party or a nation. Donald Trump slithering down that escalator in 2015 was one man who led to the release of hatred, racism, antisemitism, allowed the Covid-19 Pandemic to get a strong hold on this nation before admitting the danger and seeking treatments, numerous mass shootings…and to the banning of books which have been classics for decades in America. We now live in fear of the control by the House majority, which is the minority regarding the voiced needs and preferences of the majority of Americans.

    Mussolini led the Nazi minority in Italy till he was killed and hung upside down in the town square and left to rot. Hitler’s Holocaust led to the murder of TWELVE MILLION people, SIX MILLION of them for being Jewish, and resulted in his suicide with orders to burn his body so his enemies could not put it on display. Trump and his MAGA, White Nationalist, Freedom Caucus members are protected from such ends by American democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution of the United States of America which they determined to destroy.

    This is Memorial Day Weekend as I stated yesterday; the many thousands of dead and maimed American who fought for our freedom had no idea that their sacrifices would result in such as the conditions in this nation today. The Republican party dishonors those sacrifices and shames this country before the world. As others have stated here; I am glad I am old and won’t live to see the outcome, I will continue to support and donate what I can to do my small part to try to change America for the Better!

  3. I bet there’s more than 11 people NOT shopping at Target or buying Bud Light.

  4. I’m sure there are many veterans proud of their efforts and of the lives lost– only to give costume wearing men the right to enter women’s restrooms. To allow government backed fetishism of the mutilation of children. Government sponsored sexualation of children.

    Yes, proud,indeed.

  5. Yes, Ian; I’m sure they are proud to have fought for the right to people to be who they are and not hide in closets and proud to support families having the right to provide necessary medical care for their children. They are even proud to have fought for YOU to continue having the freedom of speech to spread your warped views wherever you choose.

  6. Only 11, that is eleven, people have made a choice for what will be millions of their neighbors.

    How self-centered and unconcerned for the rights of others, their neighbors, can this minority be? They seem to believe their choice outweighs the free choice of millions of others.

  7. Barb’s last paragraph captures perfectly why the majority of nations amongst this blue planet are against the US support of Ukraine. The majority of the world is tired of US hubris,entitlment and arrogance.

    I guess America exceptionalism isn’t what it used to be beyond the usual US lapdog nations.

  8. The tyranny of the extreme minority exists because not enough “leaders” in schools and elsewhere have the courage to tell this over-wrought ideologues to “take a hike.” Let them appeal their biases to higher authorities. That way, they will expose themselves as the fools they are to a much larger audience.

    I can hear the horse laughs from here. If only we had more leaders willing to lead and support not only the Constitution but our children’s learning environment.

    ELEVEN ideologues should NOT get this much influence over anything. Give me a break!

  9. I doubt that the Indiana Democratic party has the backbone or the energy to lead anything even remotely approaching a get out the vote drive. That being the case, why should potential voters bother?

  10. Thank you for reminding us how tyranny by the few imposes suffering on many. Loss of rights, censored learning, restricted voter access are all the result of a zealous ideology of the few. This is serious as democracy, the extent of our self governance, suffers. Imposing rigid ideology against categories of persons does real harm. Democracy and law protects us all.

  11. So “they” are clearly “few”…on a mission…per Ukraine, that energy amazes. That leaves the “many”, what are their missions? I might cynically suggest:

    – Making money and buying stuff
    – Taking care of health and family
    – Amusing themselves via entertainment (sports, music, social media, etc.)

    Why aren’t they actively working on a mission to save our democracy? Besides the above, they have given up as it appears money and power control all.

    What efforts there are are local and mostly in Blue gerrymandered places.

  12. “Many challengers wrote that reading books about LGBTQ people could cause
    children to alter their sexuality or gender.” This belief is so blatantly false, it would be
    laughable, if it did not serve to hurt people. The 11 people would probably rank high on
    obsessiveness and prurient interest scales! What is that famous Shakespeare line, “Me
    thinks the lady doth protest too much?” Just like some number of congressmen who
    made names for themselves by calling out gayness, only to subsequently be caught
    seeking homosexual conmtact themselves, at least some of these 11 may well be
    less than what they would call “upstading” citizens.

    No, Joann, costume wearing men do not go to the ladies room. Transvestites know
    that they are males! They get a kick from wearing those clothes, but do their “business'”
    in the men’s room.” Trans people do not wear costumes!

  13. Ian,

    In light of your overwhelmingly incorrect view about the war in Ukraine, do find the research that points out how virtually ALL the NATO nations are contributing materiel and expertise to defeat the despot Russians. We’ll be waiting patiently for your revelations.

  14. NATO isn’t the majority of the world. It’s an outdated organization , and only an Anglophile (such as yourself) would reply with such a vapid response. A response clinging to the past. In a few years,no one will give a shit about NATO..
    As it should be

  15. Mitch D; you need to be addressing your comments to Ian, NOT to me. I understand the differences which Ian posted the warped comments about. We can only expect warped comments from the mouths of those with warped minds.

  16. I find it interesting that the white christian, with a small c, religious element in this country, who claim to love Jesus, has such difficulty with anyone who is different from them. First of all, we were and are all created by God. Secondly, Jesus never, ever taught hate…after all he was born Jewish and died, on the cross, as a Jew!

Comments are closed.