San Lorenzo, Wentzville and Lafayette Censorship Updates

There is a legendary part of Dee Snider’s testimony at the 1985 Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) Congressional hearing, which seems relevant to me almost forty years later. Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice President Al, alleged that the song under the blade of Twisted Sister was about sadomasochism, bondage and rape. In the halls of Congress, Mr Snider said his band’s song was about “surgery and the fear it instills in people” and that “the only sadomasochism, slavery and rape in this song is in the spirit of Mrs. Gore.”

The art is performed by its audience and if Ms. Gore performed the song sexually, it says more about her than anyone else. In psychological circles, this phenomenon is called “projection.” A good literary example is The hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Children read it as the thrilling tale of a dystopian hero while their parents read it as a horrifying and disturbing tale of state-sponsored child-on-child murder. The difference is that children are not married to children and do not think of their peers in the same loving, familial way that parents think of their own children. Different life, different reading experience. With that in mind, let’s talk about some recent First Amendment challenges across our country right now.

San Lorenzo, California

The first topical case I would like to address is out of Alameda County, California at the San Lorenzo Library. The library organized a Drag Queen Storytime with 6 child participants all accompanied by their parents. The presence of parents was required. Story hours are optional, require a child’s registration, and are fully described to caregivers in library newsletters and online program descriptions. The interpreter is a youth social worker and was qualified to lead the story hour.

Enter The Proud Boys, who usually end up projecting quite a bit. To borrow from Dee Snider, librarians can’t help themselves if The Proud Boys are dirty-minded. They are obsessed with sex and even have group masturbation rules. For reference, I am not aware of a national drag group in which monthly masturbation or sexual habits are discussed. Despite this, these boys will continue to tell themselves that everything about the LGBTQIA+ community is about the literal sex act, because to them, it’s all about sex. Different life, different reading experience.

These childless men broke into Drag Queen Story Hour to harass 6 young children. Red flag #1. This communicates to me that The Proud Boys believe completely random adults should be legally allowed to act. in loco parentis to someone else’s children. Parents should be the only ones to parent their children, not foreign men in town. It is an insult to the institution of the family to presume to be a better parent than the true legal parents of a child.

The boys shouted insults within earshot of the children and claimed the program was a sexual event. The Proud Boys were the first to bring up sex in this story hour, which was aimed at babies, toddlers and preschoolers. It’s not correct. Due to their inappropriate behavior towards the children, the Alameda County Sheriff was called in and is treating the matter as a hate crime, including harassment of minors.

Wentzville, Missouri

The cover of Allison Bechdel's Fun Home book

The Wentzville School District is facing a class action lawsuit in federal court from its own students. In the 2021/22 school year, The Bluest Eye was removed from their high school libraries, although after external pressure they put it back on the shelves in February. Despite all this, the school board continued to vote to remove Fun Home by Allison Bechdel as well. The parent review committee for Fun Home included a grandparent of a 5th grader and the mother of a 6 year old. As a professional librarian, I would literally never give this book in my life to an elementary school student and I doubt it was ever in an elementary school library to begin with. The Bluest Eye was just the high school libraries of Wentzville, but media rhetoric would lead you to believe that preschoolers read and understood Toni Morrison. It was a book on an optional reading list for AP English, which is a high school-only class.

I personally spoke to some staff at the Wentzville school earlier this year. This was not the situation of a student reading something he wasn’t ready for. No real-life students were harmed. This is a situation of a parent with children currently enrolled in a private school who tries to control the parental choices of others. Respect was given to a loudmouth with no children enrolled in the school district whose only stake in the game is the fraction of their property taxes that goes to funding public education. I can only pray that this person’s child never encounters an unfiltered cell phone or computer. There are way more horrible and pornographic things on Google than in a public school library.

Lafayette, Louisiana

I have previously written about Lafayette in the context of their library board’s rejection of a grant from the Louisiana State Library for a public suffrage program. When I spoke with a local actor, he revealed to me that the whole area was controlled by a political group called Citizens for a New Louisiana. After the voting rights situation, the library board banned This book is gay by Juno Dawson who prompted the library director to cut out teen nonfiction entirely and intersperse it with adult nonfiction. This will give teenagers the opportunity to browse adult topics that are not age appropriate. If the goal is to preserve innocence, why do they force minors to enter the adult section? I digress.

These days, the library board has decided to adopt a policy prohibiting certain types of book displays, which even includes local Cajun history. It was a decision of the library director because “…everything is a struggle. And if I take these books out now, I feel like I’m inviting people to challenge these books. Self-censorship is a dangerous slippery slope. I feel like there might be Cajuns in the Acadiana region of Louisiana, which is also known as “Cajun Country”. A library in the middle of Cajun country should be aware of its community and not pretend it just doesn’t exist.

Photo from the Thomas Jefferson Collection at the Library of Congress
Photo from the Thomas Jefferson Collection at the Library of Congress

Citizens for a New Louisiana says the the focus should be on reading because libraries are about reading. This is your basic elementary school level understanding of the American Public Library, partially founded by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Protecting the First Amendment is a core responsibility of American libraries. The act of a public library was political because it was linked to the revolution of our country against England. The British Burned Our Capitol and Library in the War of 1812. Jefferson helped piece it together and that is why Thomas Jefferson’s private book collection is featured in the Library of Congress to this day. Back at that elementary school level of thinking, reading books about Cajuns would be considered reading.

Keep fighting the good fight there. Literacy and education are not pornography. Creeps who automatically associate youth literacy with pornography have something entirely different in their brains.

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