Hi, Dear Reader. It’s morning here in Lithia, Florida on Wednesday, February 2, 2022. It is a chilly “Florida winter” day. Currently, the temperature is 58˚F (15˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 87% and the wind blowing from the east at 5 MPH (8 KM/H). the feels-like temperature is 56˚F (13˚C). We are seeing a warming trend; the forecast for today calls for partly sunny skies. The high will be 80˚F (27˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 57˚F (14˚C).
This morning I woke up twice. Once it was the by-now familiar pre-dawn visit to the throne room. That was at 4:45 AM Eastern Standard Time. It was much colder than it is now, so it took me a while to fall back asleep. Even then, all I managed to do was to semi-doze off into an uneasy and unsatisfying state of being half-asleep, half-awake. Finally, an hour or so later, I got up from my futon and booted up my PC while I watched a bit of The Last Czars on Netflix.
I had hoped to see that Amazon – or at least ShopDisney.com – had West Side Story (2021) ready for preorder this morning. Alas, 20th Century Studios/Buena Vista Home Entertainment – both subsidiaries of The Walt Disney Company – have not yet announced a definite pre-order date for the U.S. market, despite there being a definite release – or “drop” – date of March 15. In the grander scheme of things, this is a minor irritant rather than a crushing disappointment. Still, I wanted to get that pre-order out of the way.
Patience, it seems, has never been my strongest virtue.
Oh, well. At least my other pre-order, Deutsche Grammophon’s John Williams: The Berlin Concert, has a definite drop date (Friday, February 4) and an Amazon delivery window (Friday, February 11).
Meanwhile, in McMinn County, Tennessee, the community with a Board of Education that is infamous for banning Maus from its middle school curriculum, there’s no sign that the conservative members and their like-minded Republican/Trump-supporting base will back down from their truculent stance.
Here’s a statement from board member Mike Nichols, who is up for re-election this year:
General Disclaimer: Please do not take any of my comments below as coming from the McMinn County Board of Education. These comments are mine alone.
For the benefit of our local community, I wanted to address the misinformation being circulated about the McMinn County School System and the teaching of the Holocaust and Art Spiegelman’s graphic comic Maus. The idea that any school system in the United States would stop teaching about the Holocaust is ludicrous—especially a school system that educates many students whose great grandfathers liberated some of the first German concentration camps. I want the Holocaust taught and taught well. I want our students to know the evils that can materialize when they cede too much power and control to a government, and I want them to understand the horrors that can arise when the media works with a government to demonize one demographic of society by hanging all the ills of that society upon them. The Holocaust should never be forgotten so that it never happens again.
Regarding the graphic comic Maus by Art Spiegelman, I have read the comic and found the parts dealing with the Holocaust both educational and extremely interesting. The comic shows an amazing story of a Holocaust survivor through an interview with his son, and if you are an adult, I would encourage you to read it. The problems regarding this graphic comic being used in public education (especially as a textbook) lie within the surrounding material where there is some lightly sexually explicit material, nudity, and offensive language unrelated to the atrocities of the Holocaust itself. To be clear about the nudity, it is not the depiction of a naked mouse, nor is it related to the horrific images associated with the concentration camps. Images like these would be both expected and warranted when teaching at the upper grade levels. Instead, the image is of the author’s mother lying in a bathtub of blood and water with her breast exposed after she has committed suicide years after the Holocaust.
I want to make it clear that the overall content of this book is not crude and perverse with nakedness and vulgarity on every page. With that being said, if this comic were a movie, it would have to be rated R due to the nudity and graphic violence. Compared to many of the movies and videos children are exposed to today, the comic may actually seem a little tame, and if as a parent, you read this comic and feel that your child is mature enough to read it, then by all means let them do so. Since you are their parent, you have every right to expose them to it; however, I do not feel that our school system reserves that right over your child.
If our students were overheard talking about their sexual experiences or using the same profanities in this comic, they would be reprimanded, and if a young man were to draw a naked picture of a woman much like the one shown in this comic, he would be disciplined. Therefore, in my opinion, it seems hypocritical to tell students that this type of behavior should be accepted if it comes from a Pulitzer Prize winning author, but if you emulate him, there will be consequences.
Our system has been teaching the Holocaust for over 70 years, and at no time has it been necessary to include unrelated nudity, vulgar and offensive language, or sexually explicit material, and I refuse to believe that we cannot thoroughly teach this subject without the inclusion of this type of material.
I would like to also add that the comparison of a school removing a book over inappropriate images and language and the Nazi book banning is ridiculous. If you enter any of our schools, you find that there are no areas designated for adult magazines. If Playboy were to run the finest article ever written on the Holocaust, the system still could not allow the magazine to be used in our schools. You will also notice that our schools do not allow the use of novels like Fifty Shades of Grey in their English classes. I’m not in any way saying that this comic is comparable to these two examples. I’ve only used them to illustrate the point that public schools have to make conscious decisions all the time about the age appropriateness of the literature used in the classroom.
If you are a member of our community, please feel free to reach out to me if I can answer any questions for you. If you are from Canada, New York, Michigan, or basically anywhere outside McMinn County, please feel free to institute policies in your own communities that best meet the needs of your students, and we will continue to do likewise for ours.
God Bless you all.
Note that I underlined a specific statement by board member/incumbent candidate Mike Nichols that is disingenuous and ironic – at the same time.
I want our students to know the evils that can materialize when they cede too much power and control to a government, and I want them to understand the horrors that can arise when the media works with a government to demonize one demographic of society by hanging all the ills of that society upon them.
Well, isn’t this the modus operandi of the post-Gingrich, Trump-era “conservative” movement? Trumpism is all about using media (Fox News, One America News Network, Breitbart, Infowars, Parler, Gab, Telegram, and the various podcasts and video channels that feature Alex Jones, Candace Owens, Dan Bongino, and other right-wing media personalities) to “demonize one demographic of society by hanging all the ills of that society upon them.”
I mean, seriously. If you are a middle-of-the-road, non-partisan person and start to consume large amounts of conservative content – be it in social media, books such as Follow the Money: The Shocking Deep State Connections of the Anti-Trump Cabal by Dan Bongino, or Ann Coulter’s ¡Adios, America!: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole, or the aforementioned right-wing cable and Internet outlets, you will see a group of politicians working hand-in-hand with media and sympathetic pundits to “to demonize one demographic of society by hanging all the ills of that society upon them.”
Not only that, but if you were previously apolitical and naïve about politics, and all you hear is:
- The Democrats are Communists and want to destroy America and everything she stands for
- Liberalism is a mental disorder
- Liberals are Godless
- Liberals are evil
- Liberals have sold our country to China
- Liberals want illegal immigrants to move to the United States so they can destroy the country and turn it into Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, etc.
- DemonRats hate Donald Trump because he is for America
If that’s all you read, watched, or listened to without checking out centrist, mainstream media, or even some decidedly progressive outlets such as Mother Jones or Daily Kos, I guarantee that given enough time, you, too, would start believing that the “left” is EVIL and that conservatism is the “right” (and only) way to go.
The banning – or “removal from the curriculum” – of Maus from McMinn County’s public schools is not a rare occurrence, nor is Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel the only book being targeted by so-called conservatives.. All across the United States, right-wingers are calling for bans on many books, includingthese titles on the American Library Association’s list of Banned and Challenged Books (from 2020):
- George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message
Now, of course, those guardians of “freedom and community standards” in the McMinn County Board of Education want to protect “children” (who are in middle school and have already seen nudity and violence in movies, TV shows, or even adult websites) from a few R-rated panels in Maus.
As I wrote on my Facebook page late last week:
This is what authoritarian regimes, whether they’re fascist, Nazi, or Communist, do.
I’m perfectly aware that conservatives in all 50 states (including Alaska) pull these “pull the books out of school” stunts to appease loud, mostly narrow-minded bigots to stifle dissent, keep kids ignorant, and maintain the status quo regarding race relations.
Southern states do this more, though. States that were once members of the Confederacy do not want to be reminded of such things as slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement of blacks and other minorities, or anti-Semitism. Florida is considering and even passing, new laws that prohibit teachers from teaching students about any topic (be it history or civics) that makes white people “feel bad.”
I don’t know who said it (it wasn’t Sinclair Lewis), but there’s a quote that’s been floating around social media since Trump became President in January of 2017. It goes something like this:
“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag.” Some versions add, “…and carrying the cross.”