It’s time to do something about the books

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Once again, the carnage goes to school. Again, American students are used to target shooting. But the conservative leaders are on the case. Recognizing the continuing threat to our children, they know it is time to act decisively.

It’s time to do something about the books.

And if you expected this sentence to end differently, you didn’t care. In Red America today, books are Public Enemy No.1.

As Time magazine recently reported, librarians are seeing a marked increase in censorship activity. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, executive director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, called it “an unprecedented volume of challenges.” From Texas to South Carolina, Virginia to Florida and beyond, conservative governors and advocacy groups are removing books from school libraries, especially those that deal with the two subjects they find most threatening: sexuality and race.

Everything to protect our children.

You can tell it doesn’t make sense. You can look at what happened last week at a high school in Oxford, Michigan – four students killed, six more and a teacher injured – and say that what we need to protect our children from is the fact that any struggling classmate can all too easily obtain a weapon of mass destruction to work with through their teenage angst. But on this subject, these same governors and pressure groups will give you nothing but great silence.

In their world, a mass shooting is just a natural, unpleasant, but inevitable phenomenon, like rain. Would you like to try to ban clouds?

No, from where they sit, the most serious threat our children face is not from bullets but from books, and they will not rest until the scourge of knowledge is defeated. Which makes sense what a funhouse mirror is to its actual appearance: a hopelessly distorted reality.

We live in a world where students huddle under their desks in active shooting practice, but conservatives fear learning about the breed could make them uncomfortable. A world where kids suffer from PTSD after seeing friends slaughtered, but conservatives fear reading about sex will expose them to things they are not yet ready for. A world where kids go to school with bulletproof backpacks, but the Conservatives think the books have gotten out of hand.

Consider the photo the Kentucky rep tweeted last week of him and his family posing in front of a Christmas tree with sparkling plastic smiles, all cradling long guns. Massie’s tweet read: “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo. To be conservative is to believe that this is not at all scary and fetishistic, nor indicative of insecurity and overcompensation, nor even slightly suggestive of an unhealthy phallic fixation. To be conservative is to think it’s entirely appropriate to post, just days after the deadliest school shooting since 2018, to celebrate the birth of a man called the Prince of Peace.

To be conservative is to see that image and be convinced that America’s problem is too many books.

Never mind that no book has ever pierced flesh and broken bones, no book has ever shed blood, no book has ever left an empty place at a table. And never mind that in America too many kids find it easier to get their hands on a Glock than a copy of “Beloved.” Tragically, some of us are fine with this.

After all, you have to set your priorities. You need to protect what matters most to you.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

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