‘War on Books’ by right wing activists threatens recent civil rights gains
In school districts across America, metaphorical book burners and actual book banners are gaining traction. Using fear, harassment and intimidation, they are storming schoolboard meetings to eliminate books they disfavor under the guise of “choice”, “parental rights” and “protecting children.”
The American Library Association reports that eight of the 10 most challenged books last year were based on L.G.B.T.Q. subjects or narratives. “This year, we saw the continuation of a trend of a rising number of challenges to L.G.B.T.Q. books,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, executive director of the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom told The New York Times.
The contemporary “war on books” was fueled by political activists organizing conservative parents to oppose COVID mask policies in schools. According to Media Matters, there are at least 860 right-wing parents’ groups on Facebook, including at least six specific networks with at least 717,000 combined members.
“Now, these [COVID] complaints have evolved into a broader campaign around so-called ‘parental rights’ — opposing mask policies, vaccine mandates, LGBTQ rights, sex education, and so-called ‘critical race theory’,” Media Matters writes.
The attack on LGBTQ-themed literature is happening nationwide. In Texas, lawmakers are targeting more than 800 books they deem inappropriate. In Waukee, Iowa, parents attacked the schoolboard and demanded they pull LGBTQ titles from library shelves. In Wyoming, librarians were harassed and even threatened with prosecution for providing sex education and LGBTQ reading material. The Goddard, Kansas school district was cajoled into removing books deemed offensive. In Spotsylvania, Virginia, during an unsuccessful debate on eliminating titles, conservative schoolboard member Rabih Abuismail actually said, “I think we should throw those books on the fire.” In Salinas Valley, California, two public school teachers could lose their jobs for trying to help LGBTQ students after right wing activists distorted surreptitiously recorded comments they made at a conference. (This is just a small sample of recent battles)
In addition to the recent orgy of book banning, the ACLU reports that “2021 set a record for the most anti-LGBTQ bills passed during a legislative session. Over 100 anti-LGBTQ laws were proposed in 35 states around the country, and these bills overwhelmingly targeted trans youth.”
The right-wing extremists behind these efforts are primarily motivated by fundamentalist religious beliefs. They despise LGBTQ people and want us to disappear into the dark recesses of the closet. Their strategy is to make the very existence of gay and transgender people so “controversial” that any mention of our lives is deemed inappropriate adult content. Once they do, they can justify expunging LGBTQ narratives from school libraries and eventually broader society. Their fantasy is to recreate a social climate where there is widespread fear of discussing LGBTQ people in a positive light, and in the few instances we are mentioned, it’s in shameful, hushed tones.
Our foes simply can’t tolerate our existence. They depict all good-faith efforts to help LGBTQ youth as an “ideology” or “agenda”, which is hypocritical considering they are the ones trying to inject their religion into all aspects of life. The tactic they are using to accomplish their goals in public schools is throwing violent tantrums at school board meetings, to create enough smoke so people assume there is fire in the books or programs they seek to eliminate.
Of course, all these busybodies are proving is that the reading material in question is necessary to protect vulnerable LGBTQ youth from toxic right-wing parents who want to browbeat their LGBTQ children or send them to conversion therapy. It’s ironic that these faux do-gooders are screaming “indoctrination”, while fighting to eliminate all viewpoints that aren’t their own.
This noxious effort is much greater than an assault on reason and academic freedom. It is part of the right wing’s recent turn toward authoritarian, anti-democratic values. Most Americans have soundly rejected their archaic beliefs and medieval mindset. Instead of accepting America’s verdict on their moldy worldview, these extremists figure they can overcome the will of the majority by menacing schoolboard or city council members. Even though more than 83-percent of the Western Hemisphere population lives in an equal marriage jurisdiction, they surmise that if they can out-organize and out-antagonize, they can win battles at the local level where fewer people pay attention.
Perhaps, they are correct. It’s up to us to foil their nefarious plans before it’s too late.