Dolly Parton has a popular book program that gives out young children’s books for ages 0-5 called the Imagination Library program. It launched in 1995 in Tennessee and focuses on giving out books for preschool children. The general idea is that like a book of the month club, the young folks in a given community will have a shared experience reading a fun book to go back to their peers with.
Kentucky state Sen. Stephen Meredith worries that Parton’s program could be used to indoctrinate these young children with who knows what kind of ideology. Did you hear that right? Yes you did. In a committee meeting where lawmakers discussed a proposed bill to partner with Parton’s reading initiative—something that a lot of states have had success doing with the Imagination Library program—Meredith briefly mentioned how much he liked one of the books in the program before saying “but.” Meredith then went on to say, “This may be a strong statement, but I don’t mean it as one,” before launching into asking if requiring things to be “age-appropriate” was “enough,” and should these books be “subject-appropriate” as well?
Parton’s sister Stella was ... let’s say, frustrated by this strange piece of business when she heard it. She went on her social media account to slam the senator.
She wrote that she was ”outraged this morning that anyone, let alone a GOP Sen. Meredith from the great state of Ky. Would question my sister Dolly or even insinuate something sinister about the ‘Imagination Library’ program for children.” Stella Parton went on to point out that of all people, Meredith should know how Parton stays out of politics, and that Meredith trying to use Dolly’s program for his own feeble attempts at starting a culture war is “appalling.” She finished by saying: “I would like to see your IQ score Sen. Meredith along with at least a dozen more of you GOP nimrods. The next thing you know, you will be trying to burn children’s books!”
This led to quite the response online, as you might imagine. Here’s a sampling:
The American Library Association also wanted to point out that censoring books has always been bad.
Meredith, feeling the backlash of a million Dolly Parton fans, told Newsweek: "In the body of the bill presented for consideration, there was language that stated books to be provided should be age appropriate. I simply suggested that if books to be provided for pre-school age children will be required to be age appropriate, there should probably be an amendment to the bill to require the books also be content appropriate for this age group.”
Let’s think about what this guy is literally saying: He’s saying that while there are guidelines that “require” books to be “age-appropriate,” this might somehow exclude things being “content appropriate.” This is not simply word salad, it’s a completely meaningless sentiment. It isn’t pointless, however, and Meredith knows that. The point here is that Meredith hopes to score political points with frothed-up culture warriors by pretending that there is a difference between what is age-appropriate and what is content-appropriate.
And so, back-peddling in his attempts at controlling an educational program, Meredith once again attempted to say that this wasn’t an “attack upon Ms. Parton,” (he actually said “upon”) but a way of controlling Parton’s program in the future when she longer runs the program. "It was simply to put guardrails in place for the future to protect children from content inappropriate for their ages, and allow children to be children.”
Let’s just drop something here before getting back to Meredith.
In his final attempt at saving face, exposing his truly Hawley-esque arrogance, Meredith uses a self-serving passive aggressive cowardly tag on: “I can't help but believe Ms. Parton would agree with me." Republican government overreach hypocrisy intact. I think we can fix that last sentence to read, “I have a narcissism that eats away at me from the inside and because of my upbringing I can’t shake the fear that my soul is burning because I am worthless. Maybe Dolly Parton can tell me I’m not the craven control freak that the rest of her family and America has exposed me to be.”
Meredith is no stranger to clumsy and unpopular attempts at fascism. Way back two years ago, it was Meredith who proposed a new law that would allow any “peace officer” in the Bluegrass State to demand a person’s name, address, and date of birth, and they could ask for identification as long as they believed the person "has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime." If that person refused to comply with this newly empowered gestapo official, they could be detained for up to two hours “without officially recording any of the incident.”
Meredith pulled that bill just days after he received backlash from everybody. Don’t worry, he blamed reporter Matt Jones and political cartoonist Marc Murphy for the bill’s failure. Not the fact that they simply reported on the bill and then Kentucky citizens, who are not known for their wild-eyed liberalism, gave Meredith’s ideas a resounding thumbs down.
The talk of the Imagination Library gets going around the 4:30 mark. Meredith begins spinning his hometown style of fascism some time around the 6:50 mark.