February 13, 2023

Todd Dorman: Actually, it should be damn hard to ban a book in Iowa

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Todd Gorman wrote this editorial for The Gazette last week, commenting on an Iowa House Government Oversight Committee meeting that has rarely met in the past (twice last year), and so, he suggested, surely they must have met about something very meaty.

Well, no.

Instead, the committee heard from five Moms for Liberty who ran into problems trying to get “obscene” books removed from school libraries and curriculum. So it was red meaty for conservatives crusading to ban books about and written by LGBTQ authors and people of color.

The format of Monday’s meeting was torn from the pages of book-banning 101. The moms displayed and read the most shocking passages they could find from a list of books.

And Gorman notes some characteristics of the books put in the stocks.

These books are not obscene. A book is obscene if, under state law, “the material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, scientific, political or artistic value.” These books, taken as a whole, are not obscene by that standard. Not even close.

And given the identities of the authors and their subject matter, It sure looks like this really isn’t about those passages. It’s about a Black author writing about violent policing, an Indigenous author writing about racism and an LGBTQ author writing about real experiences growing up in America. That’s what they don’t want kids to read about. It might bust some comfortable myths.

The parents who testified seemed to argue that it should be easier for a parent or a group of parents, to seek removal of books from libraries and curriculum, a decision that could affect hundreds of students and other parents who disagree. Republican politicians, such as Gov. Kim Reynolds, have led them to believe “parents’ rights” means only their rights. The rest of us can shut up.

Actually, it should be damn hard to banish a book. Freedom of expression still is an important principle in the country, at this hour. We’ve shunned the censors, gatekeepers and book-banners throughout our history. I’ve never been much for slippery slopes, but it seems like we’re standing at the top of an authoritarian bobsled run.

Read the full editorial here.

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