It’s been a few days since the end of National Poetry Month, and I’ve been busy writing and editing a newsletter for the store, the literary magazine, my own poetry book…
And today I stopped for a minute and read the news.
Bad idea. Bad. Very bad.
You know how I thought we all rush toward our end? The world is doing that right now. But the end isn’t going to be bright and glorious and swift for us all. It’s going to be slow and painful for the unlucky ones.
There’s a list making the rounds of social media right now of “banned books”. Yeah, it sucks that such a list has to exist. We don’t live in Utopia. But are those books going anywhere? Will you ever have a really difficult time finding a copy of The Catcher in the Rye or The Harry Potter series? Probably not. (Even though J.K. Rowling has managed to piss off just about everyone.)
Why is this?
One simple reason. We may not live in Utopia, but we don’t live in Dystopia, either. Banned books are an effective tool employed by libraries and booksellers. There is no easier way to get your book on the bestseller list than to have it publicly banned. Human nature prompts us to immediately rush out and find out why those books were banned.
There are exceptions to this rule. When six Dr. Seuss books were withdrawn due to “hurtful and wrong” imagery, I had a hard time deciding how to feel about it. The reason for this can be found in And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street: “…a Chinaman who eats with sticks…” You might think that would be harmless, but I knew. I spent a large portion of my childhood with an image of Asian people wearing weird pointy hats and eating noodles with “sticks”. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to appreciate the beauty of Asian culture. And the fun. I’m a big anime and manga fan, and I’m listening to K-Pop right now thanks to my much less culturally insensitive daughter. Someday I hope to visit Japan, South Korea, China and anywhere else that will allow a humble American.
Yes, those Seuss books are mostly off the shelf or on sale on e-Bay for hundreds of dollars. But what happened to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind when our “woke” culture wanted to cancel it? It hit number one on the Amazon bestseller list. You can still find it on Amazon, by the way. And the N-word has not been removed. Same for Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And everybody knows about the success of another “banned” book, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. For the most part, there are no bonfires of these banned books, and even if there are, you can’t burn digital copies and more copies are printed of most of them everyday, anyway.
That’s why when I get requests to feature banned books more prominently in my store, I have to admit I don’t have very many of them. They’re sold out.
Like many, I’ve been watching the developments of the riot at the Capitol Building last week. Probably more than I should…although, maybe not.
You see, at first, I thought it was a bunch of yahoos that overwhelmed an unprepared bunch of basically mall cops. Were the cops even armed with anything but batons and shields? I wasn’t clear. It seemed, at first, like a bunch of rednecks got out of control at a tailgate party.
Over the course of the past week, it’s become very clear, that’s not what happened at all. The rioting crowd was out for blood. And blood was spilled. Some theirs, but a lot of it from the courageous police who were all that stood between the mob and the fragile gears of our democracy.
I think it’s important that we all not only realize this but accept it. Maybe there were good people in that mob swept up by the evil and the hell. Maybe we all need to be on guard because if the events of January 6, 2021 are any indication, hellfire is just a step away.