Don’t Get Me Ugly



John Clark with his take on censorship and the ugliness hiding behind much of it. Let’s go back 27 years to a 50th birthday party for my friend Wayne who was three years ahead of me. While the assembled guests watched the poor fellow sit in a chair at the center of the room, trying not to squirm while a belly dancer swooped around him, feeding him grapes, another graduate of our high school sidled up to me. He leaned over and said, “So what do you think about Rush?” I looked back and said, “I am perfectly capable of doing my own thinking.” We haven’t spoken since.

Unfortunately, the state of Maine has more people like him than those who are capable of thinking and researching issues, care to imagine. Like many other states, we’re seeing an increase of requests for books to be removed from libraries, mostly at public schools. The latest complaints bedevil RSU 9, also known as Mt. Blue School District, and its placement of posters explaining the differences in sexuality and gender identity. Five community members are upset by the two posters that are near the guidance office. Fortunately, the decision is to let them stay.

Down the road in Dixfield, the high school administration knuckled under and removed Gender queer from the library. Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance-MWPA, of which I’m a member, raised enough money to buy 100 copies of the book that are available from a nearby independent book store for people, schools and libraries all over Maine.

When I stopped in to visit the folks who bought Sennebec Hill Farm in Union where I grew up, Frank who is on the school board for the district which includes Medomak Valley High School, told me that after the principal and superintendent upheld keeping Gender queer on the library shelves, the bigots continued to complain, so the district bought 19 copies, enough for everyone on the board to read. I suspect the board members will vote to keep it in the school.

At least nineteen libraries in Maine own one or more copies of the book, and right now every one is out or on hold.

This is not the only book in Maine being challenged, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the same pack of rabid uber-religious republicans are behind the furor. I’d bet a week’s lunch money that less than a quarter have read even one page from what they’re trying to keep from other folk’s kids.

In a fair world, they should be forced to read and pass a written or oral test on the contents, but that won’t happen. I have difficulty reining in my inner ugly when around people who are hard-wired to judge and hate anyone who’s even a bit different. That’s part of why so many of my stories, and even my unpublished books address the way ‘different’ people are treated.

Do I have answers? None that would be considered magical or world changing. However, I’ve been out on weekends encouraging Maine people to vote, and I’m about to mail out 100 personally written postcards to on the fence voters across the country.

One final thought, during my campaigning, I’ve encountered a few people who aren’t going to vote for democrats. The two I spent the most time with became angrier the longer I listened. Short of adding Prozac to public water supplies, I see no way to change them. Stay safe and please VOTE.




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