Life in Trump-Era America: Tennessee County School Board Bans Pulitzer Prize-Winning ‘Maus’ – on Holocaust Remembrance Day!

Front cover of The Complete Maus. Cover art by Art Spiegelman. (C) 1996 Pantheon Books, a division of Penguin Random House

Hi there, Dear Reader. It is midday here in Lithia, Florida, on Friday, January 28, 2022. It is a chilly winter day. Currently, the temperature is 64˚F (18˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 85% and the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 3 MPH (5 KM/H), the wind-chill factor is 62˚F (17˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 69˚F (21˚C). Tonight, winds will be blustery, skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 45˚F (7˚C).

If you follow the news in the United States, you probably came across the latest bit of insanity from Tennessee, which like my home state of Florida is a Republican-ruled state. It seems that yesterday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the all-white school board of McMinn County voted, 10-0, to ban Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from the public schools it oversees.

Maus is about the experiences of Vladek and Anja Spiegelman, Art’s parents, as Polish Jews who lived through the Holocaust in various places, including ghettos in Polish villages, hiding places in Catholic Poles’ houses, and, eventually, the horrors of the infamous concentration camp known as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In a purely stylistic decision, Spiegelman chose to anthropomorphically depict Jewish characters as mice, Nazi Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and Americans as dogs. Aside from that, Maus’s cast of characters reflects both the best and worst aspects of humanity with honesty, biting wit, and, of course, grief and horror.

The world according to the McMinn County Board of Education. (Facebook)

Even though Maus is not a “Mickey Mouse” comic full of light, silly comedy and portrays the Holocaust as the worst crime against humanity ever committed, it does not, as the McMinn County School Board claims, contain “unnecessary use of profanity and nudity.”  It does have some profanity, yes, but not to excess. As to the nudity, it is confined to a few panels about the “showers” that were really gas chambers.

I reviewed Maus last year for this blog. Here is an excerpt from my review:

The Holocaust was ugly, violent, and evil. Sugarcoating or censoring its ugliness is stupid and smacks of authoritarianism. (C) 1996 Art Spiegelman and Pantheon Books

The Complete Maus is worth reading, especially in these times where white supremacy and far-right extremism are making a comeback in many countries, including the United States, the UK, and much of Europe. On social media (especially on Facebook) I see echoes of Nazi propaganda in the term used by Trump supporters when they refer to the Democratic Party or liberals in general, especially on social media, where conservatives tend to call liberals “Communists” – Hitler was a rabid anti-Communist, after all – and label Democrats as “Demon-Rats,” a not-too-subtle (if perhaps unconscious) callback to Nazi iconography that compared Jews to rats and other pests.

Maus is not a “light read” despite its presentation as a “comic,” but it is a moving story of loss, tragedy, survival, and the struggle to maintain human dignity in the shadow of war and intolerance. It should be read by everyone aged 15 and up as a reminder that history is repeated by those who choose to forget.

I seriously doubt that any of the 10 members of the McMinn County School Board will read this blog post, but I will address them directly here:

People who ban books are, by their actions, always revealed to be what they really are: authoritarians. Hitler did this. Castro did this. Stalin did this. The Kim family in North Korea does this. Southern, white majority, “Christian” states do it, too. All the time.

 In short, “y’all” look like Dixie Nazis. Cos, if you ban Maus, that is what you truly are – Dixie Nazis.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

6 thoughts on “Life in Trump-Era America: Tennessee County School Board Bans Pulitzer Prize-Winning ‘Maus’ – on Holocaust Remembrance Day!

      1. The Maus collection is just two of the books they are trying to ban.

        Have you googled or Bing’d “banned books list” yet?

        It seems to me that the only people that are offended and trying to ban these classic books are the same type of people that would like to hide their own family history in hopes of another go at it.

        I think most people, especially parents, want to teach our children history so that it doesn’t repeat itself in future generations.

        This is an obvious attempt to whitewash history just like their attempt to whitewash their attempted January 6th insurrection to overthrow a presidential election and kill American Democracy.

        Putin’s favorite news network is Fox News, and he hates America! RT (Russian state TV) and Fox have a whole lot in common.

        Liked by 1 person

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