There was excitement out of Türkiye last week. Archaeologists from Istanbul’s Koç University found an archive of written material from the thirteenth century days of the Hittite Empire.

          The Heritage Daily account listed royal seals among the finds along with “fragments of tablets with cuneiform inscriptions of festival and fortune-telling texts, in addition to numerous religious texts.”

          These Hittites were likely the foes of Homer’s (Mycenaean) Achaeans at one of the real battles of Troy. We might pick up a meaningful tidbit or two about that conflict.

          There was also excitement in Oklahoma City last week as its Metropolitan Library System announced new levels of security it has implemented to protect library patrons:

          “”These operations include video surveillance, panic buttons that ring directly into the police station, armed and unarmed guards at locations throughout the system, and, as of today, the phones have been reprogrammed to have a 911 automatic dial button.”

          Cap City’s Channel 9 reported:

          “On Aug. 29, Oklahoma City Police arrested 34-year-old Tony McCray. Police say he destroyed nearly $10,000 worth of library equipment at Ralph Ellison Library and threatened to kill people.

          “More recently, Oklahoma City Police arrested 35-year-old Merton Jim. He, according to police, assaulted a library employee at Capitol Hill Library on Sept. 13. In the police report, Jim is accused of punching the employee in the face several times.

          In August, a library security guard found, “a bag full of weapons stashed in the bathroom, including a firearm, loaded magazines and brass knuckles,” according to Channel 5.

          In August, OKC’s Channel 4 reported: “Tulsa elementary school targeted twice with bomb threats because of librarian’s social media post.”

          When did libraries become battlegrounds?

          When reprobate Republicans and their allies decided to dumb down America by banning books that they do not like, and subsequently demonized librarians for the open-minded inclusiveness that any healthy representative democracy must embrace if it is to survive the onslaught of would-be autocrats.

          The American Library Association’s 2023 “State of America’s Library” notes that “book challenges and bans surged across the country. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked a record 1,269 book challenges, the highest number of demands to ban books reported since they began compiling data about censorship in libraries.”

          And, it’s not just the books being censored. In July, Vice reported:

          “Library workers across Oklahoma’s Metropolitan Library System (MLS) were shocked this week after receiving instructions to avoid using the word ‘abortion’ and not to help patrons locate abortion-related information on either library computers or their own devices. Workers were warned that they could be held legally liable and face penalties under the state’s abortion laws.

          “’If a staff member gives any information on how to obtain an abortion, then that person may be found personally liable and will also make MLS liable,’ says a memo, which was obtained by Motherboard after being emailed to workers at one library branch in the Oklahoma City area. ‘Civil penalties include a $10,000 fine plus jail time and the staff member will lose their job due to being informed by MLS and disregarding the warning.’” 

          Yes, if it’s not our anti-education State School Supt. Ryan Walters demanding to proselytize his brand of stupidity into classrooms and school libraries, our equally benighted legislators try to extend their invasion of personal space even into constituents’ minds and voices.

          Oh, yeah. The biggest liar whoever inhabited the White House, Donald Trump, proposed a budget in 2019 that would have cut all federal funding for libraries. This is par for the course for a party that deals in lies and obedience instead of facts.

          In his 2021 Rude Talk in Athens, which discussed the no-holds-barred language of classical comedy, Mark Haskell Smith observed:

          “Whether they’re Christians or Stoics or Islamists or concerned parents, the morality police haven’t stopped trying to ban books and suppress ideas that challenge the status quo, especially when it concerns sexuality….This isn’t about protecting the children any more than denying women reproductive freedom is about being pro-life; It’s about controlling the story. The Nazis burned books they deemed degenerate, the Peoples Republic of China torches books that are anti-communist, Tipper Gore founded the Parents Music Resource Center to advocate putting warning labels on music after she caught her daughter listening to a Prince song, rednecks drove their pickup trucks over Dixie Chick CDs because the women in the band (now known simply as “the Chicks’) spoke against the Iraq War, the Taliban blew up giant statues of Buddha in Afghanistan and Christians have been burning books ever since they figured out how to light a fire.…There’s no nuance in a bonfire.”

          And, writing about censorship in classical Athens, Smith could have included Plato among the offenders. Plato is said to have wished to burn all of the books of Democritus, but realized there were too many in circulation. (Too bad so few of his works survived.)

          Plato’s Republic, advocated anything but a republican form of government. He wanted to control every aspect of every citizen’s life.

          The book banning has backfired, of course, with many schools receiving complaints about the Bible, which many of the book banners cite when challenging other books.

          As my old ally George H. Russell noted last year when the debate was raging in Texas:

          “Just off the top of my head, the Bible promotes or refers to slavery, cannibalism, genocide, incest, pedophilia, rape, virgins, murder, prostitutes, homosexuality, adultery, sexual immorality, harlots, fornication, breasts, sexual relations with animals and dead people.

          “I doubt that any of the books banned are even one tenth as ‘pornographic’ as the Bible. The book haters are, in my opinion, ignorant religious zealots, male chauvinists and misogynists that are obsessed with turning America into a repressive theocracy.”

          And, providing the evidence for such an assault on civil liberties, Supt. Walters told the Family Research Council earlier this month, “We will bring God back to schools and prayer back to schools in Oklahoma.”

          So while historians revel in finding more clues to better understand the Hittites, American librarians face an onslaught of ignorance that would eliminate facts and truths and honesty from public culture.

          Rewriting history to accommodate new facts is a natural, horizon-expanding process. Rewriting the present to accommodate tyranny narrows the world view – and at just the wrong time as other nations are lining up to supplant our influence in the world.

          We can assess the situation by turning to another ancient – whose ideas have been twisted to mean the opposite of what he taught. Epicurus observed, “The just man is least disturbed; the unjust man is filled with greatest turmoil.”  Unfortunately, today’s unjust men and women inflict their turmoil upon the rest of us.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Books dangerous to authoritarians

Post navigation