The forced-birth, book-banning, pro-insurrectionist wing of the GOP—which has become so dominant that the party spins around in circles like a dyspeptic chicken whenever it tries to elect a speaker—has spread its noxious extremism across the country faster than Subway approves new franchises.
And—hoo boy!—the results are something to behold. Republicans cannonballed into the new book-banning craze with both butt cheeks, and as a result, their brains are now waterlogged. Hey, maybe book-banning really is the path to electoral glory, but this is still America, and Americans, for the most part, don’t like it when you snatch things away from them. (Which is why Republicans have spent decades trying to keep the federal government from providing universal health care and affordable child care. Once we get a taste for it, it’s over, man.)
Now we’re starting to see the results of the GOP’s new Puritanism, which they’re convinced should enjoin everyone in the country regardless of religion, political affiliation, or number of times they’ve been spanked with a magazine by Stormy Daniels. (Okay, so maybe they don’t think it should apply to everyone.)
RELATED STORY: Scholastic tries to defend caving to book banning after one of its authors blasts the policy
Well, the impotently gyrating chickens are coming home to roost, and that can’t be good news for the extremists in the GOP (d/b/a the Republican Party). As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes in a recent look at the growing fallout from Iowa’s book-banning law, a lot of indispensable titles are getting caught up like dolphins in the tuna net—because the measure oafishly excludes any book that contains a “sex act.”
This week, the Iowa City Community School District released a list of 68 books that it removed from schools to comply with the law. Among the titles: “Ulysses” by James Joyce, “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.
The Iowa law requires K-12 schools to remove materials that depict any one of a series of sex acts that include intercourse and other types of genital contact. The law also bans instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation before seventh grade.
Beyond Iowa City, the Des Moines Register reports that school districts across the state have removed hundreds of books from their school libraries, also in response to that law. Among these titles: “1984” by George Orwell, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Forrest Gump” by Winston Groom.
Really? “1984”? “Brave New World”? “The Handmaid’s Tale”? Are they trying to keep kids who’ve grown up in a world chock-full of premium cable channels and universally available free porn from finding out what sex is—or from recognizing authoritarian overreach when it rears its ugly orange head? Color me suspicious.
As Sargent is careful to point out, it’s hard to fault the school districts themselves for the book bans. As he notes, the rules are somewhat vague, and guidance from the state has “mostly not been forthcoming—leaving [educators] in the tough position of navigating the law on their own.”
And that’s a big problem because some of these supposedly problematic books are not just appropriate for high schoolers—they're important to their personal, moral, and intellectual development. Can you imagine “The Handmaid’s Tale” with the “sex acts” removed? It would tend to blunt the message.
And is there a special carveout for the Bible? Because, let’s face it, parts of that book read like a bad Penthouse Forum letter—only with 20% more donkey penis
16 As soon as she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 17 Then the Babylonians came to her, to the bed of love, and in their lust they defiled her. After she had been defiled by them, she turned away from them in disgust. 18 When she carried on her prostitution openly and exposed her naked body, I turned away from her in disgust, just as I had turned away from her sister. 19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. 21 So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.
Odd that that passage never appeared in any of my children’s Bibles while I was growing up. That feels like an oversight. But hey, maybe “VeggieTales” can make an episode out of it! (They don’t have an eggplant character, do they? Because that could get weird.)
Of course, like nearly everything Republicans do these days, these laws have been pretty unpopular. According to PEN America, a free speech advocacy group, the book bans we’re seeing across the country are mostly driven by vocal minorities, not the public at large.
In other words, along with restrictive abortion bans, Social Security cuts, and Jim Jordan, most Americans want nothing to do with them.
In an April update on the mostly Republican-led book-banning craze, PEN America noted that conservatives have been relentlessly stirring up shit with an eye toward giving our kids a shitty education:
Again, and again, the movement to ban books is driven by a vocal minority demanding censorship. At the same time, a 2022 poll found that over 70% of parents oppose book banning. Yet the bans continue. Many public school districts find themselves in a bind. They face threats and political pressure, along with parental fears and anxieties surrounding the books on their school shelves. School Boards, administrators, teachers, and librarians are told in some cases to “err on the side of caution” in the books they make available. Too often, they do just that.
These efforts to chill speech are part of the ongoing nationwide “Ed Scare”—a campaign to foment anxiety and anger with the goal of suppressing free expression in public education. As book bans escalate, coupled with the proliferation of legislative efforts to restrict teaching about topics such as race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities, the freedom to read, learn, and think continues to be undermined for students.
Of course, this movement is likely far less about preventing kids from discovering the existence of sex than keeping them from thinking for themselves—and challenging a Christian dominionist worldview. After all, if you read “The Handmaid’s Tale” and are more focused on the “sex scenes” than the message, you really are a pervert.