[The American Library Association’s Banned Books week will be celebrated from September 27 to October 4. This year, I think we should break out the sparkling apple cider early.]
You know times are tough when, at your daughter’s fourth birthday party, you and three other parents find yourselves in the middle of the lawn, ignoring the flying Nerf balls and the children’s gay laughter, talking about your incipient ulcers and how you are all trying not to consult the latest polling numbers on the presidential campaign more than twice or three times a day. My Know-It-All-Brother-In-Law had comforted one of them, earlier, with his combo-dealie argument about Michigan and Pennsylvania and Obama’s kick-@ss “ground game,” whose benefits won’t be visible until the latter hours of November 4. Yow! Like my stomach can last that long!
But as a sister-in-law (soon to be out-law again? another ulcer-stoker! more on Proposition 8 later in the week!), I take his prognostications with a grain of salt. Even though they are based on decades of involvement in and observation of electoral politics, and even though he could get pretty far on a Jeopardy show dedicated to the finer shadings of electoral vs. popular vote calculations, and trends, and so on. I mean, his spouse has been a fundraiser for Democratic women candidates since before she was his spouse. So he does kind of have an inside track on this.
Still! We have all watched war-mongering dingbats become elected to high office in this country before. And apparently, when the spit hits the fan, I find I’m a pessimist in optimist’s clothing. So I am stocking up on Zantac and trying hard to reduce the frequency with which I check & re-check the latest polling numbers.
Meanwhile, I want to pass on some “mainstream” online news bits (with hat tips to Pam’s House Blend and Box Turtle Bulletin). Each adds some more specificity to the accusations that then-Mayor Palin attempted to censor books from her town’s library. Specifically, two books sympathetic to gay people (Daddy’s Roommate and Pastor, I am Gay ). Per usual, the LD caveat pertains here: I don’t expect this to be news to you, gentle reader. But if you know any independent, undecided librarian types, do pass this on to them.
Saturday’s New York Times ran a lengthy piece — “Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes,” — on Palin’s leadership style, which many are comparing to that of Bush (cock-sure; intolerant of dissent; strongly influenced by fundamentalists; etc.).
“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”
Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.
But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.
“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”
“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”
Posted on Salon.com today is “The pastor who clashed with Palin,” a piece (by Salon founder David Talbot) on Baptist minister Howard Bess, a retiree to Matanuska-Susitna Borough (or county), in which Palin’s hometown of Wasilla sits. Bess is the author of Pastor, I am Gay:
The book was the result of a theological journey that began in the 1970s when Bess was asked for guidance by a closeted homosexual in his Santa Barbara congregation. After deep reflection on the subject, Bess came to the conclusion that “gay people were not sick, nor they were special sinners.”
According to the Salon piece, the book’s publication stirred up a controversy among area evangelical churches; Bess was fired from a local paper for which he had written for seven years; the only bookstore in the valley that dared to stock it pulled it from the shelves after a barrage of angry phone calls. Given this, it’s less of a stretch to believe what is alleged to have happened under Mayor Palin. Bess reports to Talbot that he has direct knowledge, from city staffers, that his book was targeted (“This is a small town, we all know each other. People in city government have confirmed to me what Sarah was trying to do.”) Most chilling to me, though, after the details on the book stuff, was this:
Bess is unnerved by the prospect of Palin — a woman whose mind is given to dogmatic certitude — standing one step away from the Oval Office. “It’s truly frightening that someone like Sarah has risen to the national level,” Bess said. “Like all religious fundamentalists — Christian, Jewish, Muslim — she is a dualist. They view life as an ongoing struggle to the finish between good and evil. Their mind-set is that you do not do business with evil — you destroy it. Talking with the enemy is not part of their plan. That puts someone like Obama on the side of evil.“Forget all this chatter about whether or not she knows what the Bush doctrine is. That’s trivial. The real disturbing thing about Sarah is her mind-set. It’s her underlying belief system that will influence how she responds in an international crisis, if she’s ever in that position, and has the full might of the U.S. military in her hands.