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.
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 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.