Last updated on April 3, 2023
This week there has been constant back and forth — including both constructive discourse and a sharing of ideas, beliefs, perspectives and of belittling, degrading, and bickering surrounding the local public library system, the books in the library, and who or what should or shouldn’t be raising our children or how and how not our tax dollars should be spent. This is my peace on it and from here on out, comments on future reports of what the county does or doesn’t do will be turned off. As you can tell, comments on the Facebook post of this article have also been turned off, because enough is enough.
First, I, along with the Southern Scoop have been accused of only pushing “pro-LGTBQ” information to “push my agenda” and at the same time I have been told that people were unsubscribing to the Southern Scoop because I was “picking on the library” and “going all in for the GOP.” The fact that I can equally anger both sides — seems like a win for me. However, the fact of the matter is personally I have lost a Republican Federal job because of my public support of the library. So again — I was “right” enough to hire, but too “left” to stay employed. The right and left, black and white and exhausting division is so incredibly toxic and mentally damaging — for everyone.
While you all know me through the Southern Scoop and my reporting, my background is actually in English Literature, yes, one of this silly Liberal Arts Degrees. I studied books and writings and all things literature and that is where my passion lies. So even more than the fervent passion I have to speak loud for those who traditionally have been silenced — I also have a tad bit of education in the area.
I fully support the Macon County Public Library and the staff. I fully support every single book that is currently included in the library’s catalog because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution says that my feelings on the matter are irrelevant and ample case law and legal precedent says “those” books and the access to “those” books are legal and just and despite what anyone wants or thinks, they aren’t going anywhere. With that being said — I have floated the idea of the county managing the library as its own entity for quite some time. Not because of anything negative on the regional system or the operations — from a purely fiscally conservative standpoint. So despite being accused otherwise— in full disclosure, there is my personal stance on that.
As of late, the conversation surrounding the library has become increasingly heated and continues to be reignited — but for those who may not realize it — this is not a new topic of discussion — not nationally or even locally. And for all those new to the conversation — many of whom have the best of intentions to protect the children in our community — it is entirely disingenuous to claim that the current uproar over the library has nothing to do with LGTBQ books or literature. Anyone who attempts to claim that is either extremely misinformed, purposefully lying, or genuinely mistaken. And no, before you accuse of me saying that to stab at Commissioner Antoine, save it, because despite being painted as a villain with some sort of false vendetta against him, that just isn’t true. I wholeheartedly believe he is a just and kind individual and genuinely wants to better our community and is standing up for what he believes in. I believe that his intentions are based in his courage of conviction and disapproval of what he deems to be inappropriate content in a particular book. I do not think he, as an individual, has any ulterior motives or agenda to ban books — specifically LGTBQ books — I think he — along with so many others — saw a page in a book that was at the library and it struck a nerve when thinking a child could see those same images — as it should.
But I think it is paramount to understand that this conversation began way before Gender Queer was ever mentioned. And because there is an influx of new people to the conversation clinging to that book as their reasoning for involvement — those who are looking at a larger picture are ignoring the very real and understandable concern surrounding that book. We can not and will not find a solution and meet on common ground if we continue to fail to recognize the underlying issues and basis for such hysteria.
This started because of an LGTBQ display during the month of June in the library more than two years ago. That is not my opinion. That is not up for debate. That is not a speculative media twist to cause division or fan the flames. That is the God’s honest truth. And anyone who tells you otherwise, is outright lying to you. Further, this started over an LGTBQ book display of CHILDREN’S books — which not a SINGLE one had an ounce of inappropriate content or were graphic in nature — the SOLE reason this issue started were because the books were LGTBQ themed. That is it. I understand and recognize that the issue has since evolved — but the basis of the issues with the library began two years ago and because there was a table of books on display in the month of June that were child appropriate in every single regard — other than a small group of people objecting to the LGTBQ books existing. That is it.
Now that we have established that undeniable fact — in order to have any sort of conversation moving forward where one side of the conversation can find common ground with the opposite side of the conversation — we HAVE to acknowledge that there remains two separate groups of people objecting to the library — or — the books in the library. Those two seperate groups are a group of people who saw images from the book Gender Queer and believe that book or other books like it should not be in the library — regardless if the book was about gay, straight, black, white, big, little — nothing else matters to those people except the sexually explicit content of that book and not wanting it to be available in the library — regardless where that book is located within the library. Its mere existence is not wanted by that group. Then there is a separate group — the second group opposes that book — but then they specifically oppose several other titles of books while they may suggest it is because the books have sexual content too mature for young readers — the one thing in common with the books they name — the mature content involves LGTBQ themes. So while it may seem less prejudiced to say its the “explicit content” if you are only naming books with “explicit LGTBQ content” then its not the content and its the LGTBQ whether you admit it or not — you may not even realize it — but regardless, that is just the truth. There are some people who are in both groups — but for the sake of argument and understanding — those are the two primary groups in opposition.
Now — for those who support the library — there are two separate groups of those individuals as well. There is the group that support the library and the LGTBQ community because they are part of that community, they love someone who is part of that community, or they just in generally for whatever reason is whole and right for them — support that community and because of that, they support the library. Then, there is the second group who support the library from a strictly constitutional aspect of the legal and constitutionally protected right for the books to exist and the library to house them. This group wants less government control and involvement in our personal lives — as such don’t believe the government should be making rules or policies to govern the books we read or how we express our First Amendment Right. Many people in this group vow to protect the Second Amendment with the same strength as the First Amendment — for better or for worse. With that idea in mind — they may personally not agree with the content of Gender Queer — or even the LGTBQ themed books — however they recognize that whether they like it or not — the First Amendment protects its right to be there and recognize that one someone uses the government to do something strictly based on your personal beliefs — thats an infringement of others personal beliefs. The First Amendment protects individuals’ rights to access information and ideas without government interference or censorship. This means that public libraries must make books available to the public without restrictions,
So now that we have gotten that out of the way and I am confident I have angered the masses — subjecting myself to online hate and ridicule for the umpteen time — I will say this.
If you don’t want books in the library with sexual content — be fair in that stance and research every single title in the Young Adult section — don’t single out the LGTBQ books — make sure you research the heterosexual ones too because there are plenty of them — I even will get you started.
Forever in blue : the fourth summer of the Sisterhood
The Chocolate War
Brave new world.
Huxley, Aldous 1894-1963
A separate peace
Knowles, John 1926-2001
The fault in our stars
Green, John 1977-
The twilight saga : new moon
The kite runner
It’s perfectly normal : changing bodies, growing up, sex, and sexual health
Harris, Robie H.
Anderson, Laurie Halse.
The summer I turned pretty
The scarlet letter
Hawthorne, Nathaniel 1804-1864
The diary of a young girl : the definitive edition
Frank, Anne 1929-1945
Go ask Alice
Eleanor & Park
Looking for Alaska
Green, John 1977-
Speak : the graphic novel
Anderson, Laurie Halse
The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian
Alexie, Sherman 1966-
The princess diaries
“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
The Old African
Lester, Julius 1939-2018
But you can’t stop there. Because make sure you understand that while you don’t want these in your public libraries — you need to look as the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and books that are part of approved reading lists in the state of North Carolina, some of which even part of whole classroom education.
“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
“The Adventures of Ulysses” is a novel by Bernard Evslin, published in 1966
The Lawn Boy
“Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World” is a novel by Ashley Herring Blake
“Maybe He Just Likes You” by Barbara Dee
And that was just what I looked up in 30 minutes today. And if you are confused why these books are recommended for children as young as the fifth grade (10 and 11 years old) — look at North Carolina law — updated in 2009. Reproductive Health and Safety Education provides medically accurate information on the physical and emotional risks of sex before marriage, the benefits to being abstinent, and FDA approved methods on how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
And then look at research that shows students who participated in a sex education class were less likely to have sex during their adolescent years, were less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, and were less likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease.
Fifth grade: Differentiate between accurate and inaccurate sources of information about puberty and development.
Summarize the functions of the male and female reproductive systems.
Sixth grade: Explain the impact of early sexual activity outside of marriage on physical, mental, emotional, and social health.
Summarize the responsibilities of parenthood.
Use effective refusal skills to avoid negative peer pressure, sexual behaviors, and sexual harassment.
Use resources in the family, school, and community to report sexual harassment and bullying.
Seventh grade: Explain the effects of culture, media, and family values on decisions related to becoming or remaining abstinent.
Identify the positive benefits of abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage.
Recognize common STDs (including HIV and HPV), modes of transmission, symptoms, effects if untreated, and methods of prevention.
Summarize the safe and effective use of FDA-approved methods of preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
Recognize that sexual harassment may contribute to sexual abuse, sexual assault and sex trafficking and the feelings that result from these behaviors.
Use strategies to be safe, reject inappropriate or unwanted sexual advances, and to report incidents to an adult when assistance is needed.
Eight grade: Recall abstinence as voluntarily refraining from intimate sexual behavior that could lead to unintended pregnancy and disease.
Explain the health, legal, financial, and social consequences of adolescent and unintended pregnancy and the advantages of delaying parenthood.
Evaluate methods of FDA-approved contraceptives in terms of their safety and their effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancy.
Select family, school, and community resources for the prevention of sexual risk taking through abstinence and safer sex practices.
Summarize ways to avoid being a victim or perpetrator of sexual abuse via digital media (including social network sites, texting, and cell phone).
So with all of that being said (and if you are still reading this, thanks) removing one book from the library that you disagree with will open a domino effect of challenges and questioning of every single book — saying you want a library as a neutral place — means no Christian books, no science books, no history books. Anything that has ever been questioned, or challenged, or feared, or loved — those aren’t neutral because there is always someone, somewhere to challenge it. As humans, we are products of our experiences, biases, and beliefs. We cannot simply set aside these factors and be neutral. Even when we try to remain neutral, our subconscious biases can influence our decisions and actions. Furthermore, neutrality implies a lack of action, which can perpetuate systems of oppression and inequality.
As Rick Riordan said, “the only way to be truly neutral is to be dead.”
And while there have always been books that have been challenged and questioned — most of which follow patterns of systemic uprisings and civic and social movements, time… and history.. has shown us that it has never been and never will be the things that we disagree on that ignite a spark to bring on change, peace, and understanding — so let those things go.
“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.” – Umberto Eco
Books are not just mere words on a page, but they are gateways to exploring new ideas, expanding our knowledge, and ultimately broadening our perspective. When we read a book, we are not simply taking in the words on the page, but we are engaging in a conversation with the author and the ideas they present. Therefore, it is crucial that we refrain from censorship in public libraries and allow people to engage in that conversation freely. By censoring books, we limit our ability to inquire and critically evaluate the ideas presented to us. The diversity of thought and ideas represented in books is what makes our libraries a cornerstone of knowledge and free speech in our society.
The closest common ground I think we are going to find on this issue is that regardless of what side of the conversation you are on — everyone keeps saying that it should be up to the parent to decide what is best for their child. Those against the library — don’t want the library to take away their ability to decide if and when to introduce their child to those topics — while those for the library don’t want those against the library to have books removed from circulation that hinder a parent’s ability to use that book as a reference or teaching tool. So parents — decide what is best for your child. If those books aren’t right for your child — talk to your child. Set boundaries they understand and rules that govern how they utilize the public library — teach your children to obey your desire to approve the books they view at the library. That is your right as a parent. The books existing at the library don’t take that right away from you — however — on the contrary — removing the books from the library does effectively take that right away from other parents and deny them their right to decide what is best for their child.
Thanks for hanging in there with me. Thanks for agreeing with me. Thanks for disagreeing with me. Thanks for making posts about me on social media pages I am blocked from and in groups, I cannot see. Thanks for the laughing emojis left on this Facebook post and thanks for the hearts or “likes.” At the end of the day, the beautiful thing about life is that it is perfectly ok if we are not all on the same page — we may not even be in the same chapter — but we are all reading the same book and learning as we go.
In the brilliant words of Lesane Parish Crooks “Just because we are not friends, doesn’t mean you are my enemy. I still want to see you eat, just not at my table.”
I’m sorry you lost our job. I was given a warning, so I had to basically delete everything I had written on FB.
I love this article. Excellent points made. I hope this whole thing is resolved soon b/c it’s just too devisive and mentally exhausting.
Keep up the good work.
Not sure if this will be posted or blocked if comments are turned off, but this issue started as LGBTQ in nature because that was the type of sex books that were promoted on display 2 years ago. If it had been celebrating heterosex, then people would be just as upset. The problem was not gay or straight, but the library specifically choosing to promote a proven national movement from far left groups who actually do push an agenda. You can research how GLAAD and many other LGBTQ groups partner with the ALA to promote messages that are divisive. THAT is the heart of the controversy. Not parents waking up one day to pick on LGBTQ. Most of us don’t care if someone is gay or queer or whatever or care what books are on shelves. Being gay or transgender is a choice no different than choosing to like SEC over Big Ten. We need to recognize that SEC fans are not required to have their choices pushed onto others or celebrated for no reason. All Americans should take issue with others thinking for them as the library foolishly chose to do 2 years ago. They would do well to live and let live when it came to their personal choices of what to promote to the public who funds them.
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