banned books week
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This week is Banned Books Week.  This is a subject near and dear to my liberal, free-spirited heart and Nicole has chosen to talk about it so I am delighted to join in the conversation.

Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association to do a couple of things: make us aware of books that have been banned in the past, for various reasons, and in doing so, spark an interest in and conversation about the idea of censorship.

I despise censorship. I want to be upfront about that from the start. You know how Nicole and Joe love, love, love the Second Amendment?  Well, that’s how I am about the First one.

I was raised by a very religious mother who, fortunately for me, was pretty liberal when it came to reading material. I couldn’t wear slacks, and I couldn’t go to movies, but she didn’t really pay much attention to what I read. And I was a book worm.

When I was about 11, my grandfather gave me a book.  It was a large one-volume collection of the works of Mark Twain. It has really thin pages, sort of like a Bible. I loved it. I still love it, because I still have it. I was going to take a photo of it, but we’re remodeling and my books are stored away in boxes for the moment.

Anyway, I am quite sure that my grandfather never read the book. I know for certain my mother never did. They just saw “Mark Twain” and thought Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and that was as far as they thought.

Those novels, of course, were included in the book, but so was a story called The Mysterious Stranger. If you are unfamiliar with the work, please click on the link and scroll down to the several quoted paragraphs toward the end of the piece.

mysterious stranger

My grandfather and my mother totally forgot (or didn’t know) that Mark Twain was a cynic and an atheist.

And I read every word of that book, more than once. Please imagine a child of about 11, taught that the Bible is totally true and Jesus is totally real, reading that quote from The Mysterious Stranger after being totally invested in the story. It had a profound impact on me. I’ve never forgotten my horror and it’s been about 55 years.

My point here is this: Just because a child has the intellectual capability of reading adult literature, just because she can read the words and understand what is being said, does not mean that the child has the emotional capability of processing the information without some sort of guidance. It wasn’t that Twain was wrong.  I am an atheist (now) and share his views.  The problem was that I was young and I really needed to be able to talk with some adult about the issues raised and I couldn’t.

I didn’t tell my mother about the story.  I knew what would happen if I did. She would have taken the book away from me.  I didn’t want censorship, but I certainly needed conversation and a bit of guidance.

Keep that little anecdote in mind as we continue.

I think I’ve written about this before, but hell, I’m old, and I can repeat myself if I want. When we lived in Alaska, I volunteered at our local library.  Here it is.


I was not only a volunteer librarian, but I also was the treasurer. I served in that capacity for much of the time we lived there (about 9 years). So I know a little about how libraries work and how they are funded and how to manage one, albeit a teensy one.

library funding

In Alaska, our little library was funded several ways. Our primary funding was via a state grant, given to us by the legislature every year. We were never exactly sure how much we would get.  It all depended on how much the legislature approved and how many libraries applied for funding.

We were required, as a condition of receiving the funding, to raise a comparable amount from the community. During the time I was there, we experimented with several ideas for fund-raising (our least-favorite thing to do), and came up with a sweepstakes, which has remained in place ever since. They, in fact, are getting ready for it right now.  We sold tickets for $100 a pop, and the ticket served as entry to the party (held at the local community club, complete with food) and the subsequent drawing. Multiple prizes were given away, mostly cash.

The third thing we got in terms of funding was E-Rate. That is a federal program which allowed us to have telephone and internet service at very reduced prices. This facilitated offering computer access to the public.

So, the library was (and still is) funded by community donations, by state grants and by federal dollars.

But nobody told us what books to buy or what to offer and what to do about any of that.

The contents of our library were determined entirely by the library’s board, and I was on that board, so I know how the decisions were made.

Libraries are finite. They are not Amazon. They can’t have every book that has ever been printed in them. Shelf space in a library is valuable space and none of us were ever cavalier about the decision to place a book on the shelf or to remove it.

We used to weed books (and that’s what we called it – “weeding”) about twice a year.  We got boxes, divided the library up in sections and began working. We had come up with criteria to help us make decisions, involving how often the book had been checked out (circulation), whether or not it was considered a classic (subjective, but we had to start someplace), and whether or not we had lots of books on the same subject (repetitiveness). A book that just sat on the shelf doing nothing got removed.

And once all the books that were weeded were in the boxes, we all went through the boxes and pulled out those we didn’t agree with tossing. And then we argued about it, politely.

In the end, a whole pile of books left the library to be donated, were sold for really cheap, or went to the dump.

Every now and then, we got a complaint.  It didn’t happen often, but it did happen.  We actually had a form, if I remember correctly, that people could fill out if they wanted to complain about something, and that included the inclusion (or exclusion) of any book on our shelves. Typically, a complaint would come from a parent who thought that a particular book in the children’s section wasn’t appropriate for one reason or another.

When that happened, we would discuss the issue in the board meeting.  Most of us were very pro-free speech and loathe to do any censoring of any sort (a very common feeling among librarians in general), but we did agree that there should be fairly obvious areas for picture books, for children’s books and for young adult books, so that parents could easily determine which shelves their children were browsing. And what generally happened was that we’d agree to move a particular book from the children’s area to the young adult area.

Our reasoning centered around the issue I raised earlier with my little story about Mark Twain and The Mysterious Stranger.

When I was in the twelfth grade, the principal of the school, Mrs. Polly McKay, called me into her office to have a chat. It seems that the school librarian had reported to Mrs. McKay that I had checked out East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Mrs. McKay felt that the book was too mature for my tender years.

I remember being astonished.

I asked her to please explain to me why, if the book was too mature for me, and I was in the twelfth grade, what the book was doing in the library at all.

She had no answer.

Libraries have to make choices about what to put on their shelves and what to either never buy or remove.  It’s a problem that is perennial and thorny.

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Here’s another kind of twitchy problem. Somebody in our little community donated the entirety of the Left Behind series to our library.  You wanna see a really shitty series of books?  Get volume one of that series and start reading. I give you about ten minutes. Awful.

And it wasn’t one book. It was a bunch of books. Sixteen of them.  That’s a lot of shelf space for shitty books.

But if we refused them, we’d be accused of religious discrimination. We knew that. We’d also have hurt the feelings of somebody in a very small community.  We had no desire to do that.

So we tolerated them for a while.  They, naturally, due to sheer shittiness, did not circulate worth a damn, and after a year or so, they began to disappear. I hope they are all gone now.

My point here is that nobody made these decisions for us. We met as a board of directors, we got input from the community, and we took a vote.  It was always difficult and we tried very hard to err on the side of free speech.

And the state government, those folks that gave us our grant, and the federal government that furnished us with the E-Rate credit on our telephone and internet access had zero input into any of this. Absolutely none.

album banned books
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From Nicole’s Blessed Little Homestead Facebook page.

Notice that she insists that “the government” bans books. And then she puts up pictures of books that at one time, some place, were banned. The implication is that all book banning is done by the US government. She doesn’t explicitly say that, but she is certainly implying it.

The US government has not banned a book in decades.

And then she tells us to read banned books, because anarchy.

How about reading, period?  How about reading banned books because they contain often-controversial subject matter?  How about making sure that if you allow children to read that sort of stuff, you also provide them with guidance and a bit of conversation?  How about providing children with age-appropriate books, and teaching them to read in the first place (doubtful at the Blessed Little Property)?

Canterbury TalesIf you’re going to complain about literature being banned, and in doing so, you’re going to use hashtags, spell the name correctly.

There are zillions of books in print. It’s not possible for anyone to read all of them. I know, because I have made a valiant effort to do just that and have failed miserably.

And not every book that has been banned should be given a glance or any valuable time to be read at all.

Here’s an example.

Elders of Zion

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a book I’ve never read, except for excerpts. I have no intention of ever reading it.  If you really can’t bear it and want to read it, Google it and you can find a copy online. I am 67 years old. Why would I want to waste my time, as little as I have remaining, to read a piece of shit like that when beautiful books like The Jewel in the Crown (my current Audible book) are out there beckoning to me?  Why would I waste time with a complete fraud of a book that has led to so much anti-Semitic hatred and violence?

Should the book be banned?  I do not think so.  However, I doubt I’d vote to give it library space if I were still sitting on the library board.

challenged books
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Here’s a list of books that were “challenged” (meaning that some library got a complaint about the book) in 2015. Notice how often the reason given is “unsuited for age group”?  That’s exactly what I was talking about in my Twain story. It’s a very subjective issue and a thorny one. And it’s difficult to know what to do about it, if anything at all. One solution involves making sure that parents realize what subject matter is involved in books their children check out.  Does that mean putting a warning sticker on the front?  (That would increase circulation, I bet!)  I don’t know, but I do know that the issues are real and all sides have reasonable concerns.

Just like we had to do at the library, you have to make these kinds of decisions at your house.  What books are you going to spend time reading? Which ones are worth bothering with?  Which ones will you buy in hard copy form and store?  Which ones will you read and discard?  You can’t eat at every restaurant in the world, and you can’t read all the books.

Choose carefully. Choose wisely.

The government does not care what or how you choose.


Freedom of Speech

Most people do not really want others to have freedom of speech, they just want others to be given the freedom to say want they want to hear. – Mokokoma Mokhonoana


On that terrible day in November of 1963, I was a tenth-grade student at Bob Jones Academy. My mother was employed at the school in the business office. Somebody came into whatever class I was in and interrupted to tell us the news that JFK had been shot. The teacher halted the class and we had prayer, which was interrupted shortly afterward to give us the news that the president was dead.

Forever afterward, most people can tell you exactly where they were and how they heard the news. At home later that day, my mother told us what had happened in the Administration Building when the news broke there. Someone ran upstairs to tell Dr. Bob, Jr. while conversation buzzed everywhere. Then came the news that President Kennedy had died.

Mom described the scene which she could see from wherever she was on the ground floor. Dr. Bob, Jr. came down the stairs and somebody called to him, “The President has died.”


Dr. Bob’s response was immediate and visceral.

“Thank God,” he said.

Even for a woman who was totally fundamentalist and rabidly politically conservative, who despised that “liberal” President Kennedy, this was really too much.

She expressed her horror at Dr. Bob’s remark to a co-worker who warned her not to let anyone hear her criticizing him, ever.

The moment marked what was probably the beginning of our family’s exit from the Bob Jones University community. She would never see the place through rose-colored glasses again.


In the days that followed, Dr. Bob let the whole world know of his contempt for John F. Kennedy by refusing to lower the flag on the campus to half-mast. [He would do so again several years later when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, but this was worse. This was the President of the United States.] I remember my mother explaining to us that it didn’t matter what you thought of the man, John F. Kennedy. You lower the flag to respect the office.

My mother wasn’t the only person on campus who was a bit taken aback. There were some students who were too. A whole group of them, in fact. I remember the number as twelve, but that’s sort of fuzzy. It could have been eight, or eleven, but it was more than five. All male. All University upper-classmen.


This clip is from the current student handbook at BJU. In my day, the handbook said something like this: “Constructive criticism is welcome, but griping will not be tolerated.” Everyone who has ever been on campus for any length of time knows the phrase well.

These young men knew it too.

So they made an appointment to see Dr. Bob, Jr., and expressed their concerns to him in person. Respecting the offices, both Jones’ and the US President’s. And they each received 75 demerits for their trouble, thus sending a message to the entire student body that not only will griping not be tolerated, what constitutes “constructive criticism” is highly subjective and pretty much unknowable.

At just about the same time that these BJU students were being slapped down for daring to disagree even slightly with Dr. Bob, Jr., there was this.

It’s a very silly little song about monkeys. It was written by Dave Hendricks as a rebuttal to evolution, which fundamentalists of course completely reject. I know about this song. I know about it because I sang it in church once, on a Sunday morning (which was sort of daring, because Sunday morning music tended to be sort of high-brow – and anything is more high-brow than this little piece).


The song, I repeat, is silly. The most interesting thing about the song is how many times the lyrics repeat “I don’t know much…” Yeah, Dave Hendricks certainly didn’t.

But it’s a song about creationism. The references to monkeys in the song are about real monkeys, the kind that hang out in trees.

Yes, I know that the photo is a chimp facepalming and not a monkey, but he’s cute so I used it.


I’m using here comments that Camille made on Stuff Fundies Like, instead of the actual conversation I had with her about this subject. I have to do that because I don’t have any record of that conversation. That’s because I’m not in the habit of grabbing screen shots of everything anyone says who disagrees with me and keeping them for years. However, the basic ideas she espouses here are identical to those she expressed to me.

In the first place, when Darwin’s theory of evolution was first publicly discussed, there weren’t really any ideas that “evolution concluded that the black man and the white man were the same.” Darwin, knowing that the subject was probably going to be volatile, kept his writings pretty much about plants and animals, at least at first. It was his distant cousin, Francis Galton, who latched onto what he thought were the implications of the theory, and came up with eugenics, resulting in the idea that black men were not as “highly evolved” as white men.


Somebody calling herself “pastor’s wife” argues that exact thing. Camille sets her straight, though. It’s creationism that is racist. Evolution is egalitarian.

In a sort of stretch-it-to-make-it-fit way, that’s right. Only racism has existed on both sides, using both science and the Bible to support bigotry. It’s not a “they are bad and wrong,” and “we have always had it right” thing. Creationism does, in fact, lend itself to racist ideas, because of the whole Ham-sinned-and-black-people-are-cursed story. And science has dipped into eugenics to its shame and disgrace.

The Klan, being opportunistic, just went with whatever fit. They were (are) first and foremost racists. What argument is used to support that racism doesn’t really matter.


And so, because Camille has the Klan on the brain, and is seeing Klansmen in everything, everywhere, this little anti-evolution ditty is “Klan Kode.” We know that because Camille has declared it to be so.

When I had this same conversation with her, she was much less polite, and pretty much dismissed everything I said as the commentary of a stupid woman who doesn’t know nearly as much as the great Camille Lewis, Ph.D., super historian and researcher extraordinaire. I gave up after a brief exchange when I could not convince her that the lines in the song, “The teachers who came from a monkey would be better off in a zoo” were not about black teachers, or black people. When this song was so popular and I was in high school, I was a white student at Wade Hampton High School in Greenville, SC. There were no black students there. Even though Brown vs. the Board of Education had been decided when I was five years old, I never attended school with a black person in my life, and that included nursing school. I did my bachelor’s degree entirely via distance learning, so I had no “classmates.” And I never had a black teacher.

The “teachers who came from a monkey” is a reference to teachers who taught evolution. It is not a racial statement.

The interesting thing about all this to me is not the minutia of the lyrics of a silly old song. It’s more about how, when I disagreed with Camille about this, and explained that I, as a teenager, performed this song, didn’t think of it as racist, and didn’t know anyone who did – I was dismissed as not knowing what the hell I was talking about it. It’s not like she said, “Gee, I hadn’t spoken with anyone who actually sang that song as a kid. Maybe I’m reading something into it that isn’t there.” No. She did the whole “Yes. It is racist. It is. No doubt about it. It’s code. They called black people ‘porch monkeys.’ ::shrug::” She actually said that about the porch monkey thing, so I asked my husband, who grew up in Greenville, born in 1939. He never heard the expression in his life, nor had I. That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, but it absolutely didn’t exist among the people in Greenville, SC we knew.

But when, around the same time, I told Camille a story that she wanted to hear, with the conclusions that she wanted to be true, oh, well, then it’s different. Then I’m a genius and perfectly reliable source.

This conversation, about a silly song,  occurred during the period when I began to wonder about how objective Camille is, and I decided that I probably wasn’t going to listen to her very much, as she didn’t seem to want to know anything except stuff that supported the conclusions she’d already reached. She’s not listening to people who lived through the era she’s “researching.” She’s deciding what happened and then looking for evidence to support that narrative.


All this leads me right here. This is from Camille’s Storify page, discussed here.

I thought this was odd. I couldn’t figure it out at first. Here’s a guy whose annual photo is lined up right along with all the Really Bad People, with Camille’s handful of criminals, and Jim Berg, and other nefarious characters, and it seems that his only crime is…

that he disagreed with Camille.

I had to ask around to find out what in the world a “Calvinista” is. I never heard the expression before. And Camille herself pretty much embraces Calvinist philosophy/theology, so why the mocking name? It seems, my sources tell me, that it’s a name for those thought of as “hyper-Calvinists.” So it’s basically one group of people taking pot shots at another group of people, arguing over the exact shade of brown of their excrement.

Apparently Jonathan Hagen tried to get somebody to influence Camille enough to get her to remove some name from her terribly influential Storify page. He simply has a difference of opinion with her and expressed it.

Camille doesn’t take well to differences of opinion.


This disagreeing so disagreed with her that she took to Twitter to rant about it. If you don’t agree with her, well, just tell her, and she’ll add you to the list. How nice. But you need to be a BJU alumnus. I’m not, so I suppose I don’t qualify. I hate that.


All this is the real reason why all comments over on Truth Seeking Graduates must be approved before they appear. That doesn’t mean that no disagreement is allowed. Occasionally, a comment is posted that starkly disagrees with Camille. But only, and I mean only, if she feels that she can chew that person up and spit them out. Otherwise, forget it. If you don’t believe me, just try it.

The reason given out is that they have to approve comments because of “drive-by hiders” or because of people who somehow try to sabotage their lofty aims and goals. After all, Camille is so important and her little Facebook page so influential that people are clamoring to stop her any way they can. She’s the Edward Snowden of Bob Jones University.

This clip is from a few years ago. I included it just because I thought it was delightful that they were so protective of Beth then. Times, of course, have changed.


Only I have a few Facebook pages, just like Truth Seeking Graduates. I have tried to replicate the whole “drive-by hider” thing and I can’t do it. Maybe that’s because I’m just a stupid woman and can’t figure it out, but neither can anyone I know.

Yes, there is a “hide” button beside comments made on Facebook “like” pages. But that only hides the comment from the person who clicks on it. The comment remains visible to everyone else.

This first one is what you get when you click on the upper right of a post made by an administrator. You can tell Facebook you don’t like the post. Facebook will then ask you why you don’t like it and you’ll be able to click on a reason. You’re basically given the opportunity to report the post.


I cannot actually get a screen shot of the “hide” button because it’s a mouseover which disappears when you remove the mouse from it. Here’s a typical snarky remark from Camille over on TSGoBJ. It’s a comment made under a post which she also made. The “hide” button is located where I have the yellow box.

If you click on that, the comment will be hidden – from you. From your eyes. On your screen. Not on anyone else’s and that includes the admins. I know because I experimented with this. Furthermore, if you leave the page, and come back in a little bit, the comment will be visible to you again. Nobody else can tell that you even clicked it.


This shot is from a different page. I had to use it because it’s from a posting made by someone other than an administrator. On most pages, these show up over to the left under “Posts By Others”. Only you won’t see that on TSGoBJ. That’s because they don’t allow anyone to post anything except administrators. Camille and Cathy control the conversation there. The subject matter is chosen by them and no one else.

Note that you have the option of “hiding” again. And again, if you choose it, the post will disappear – from your screen. It will not disappear from anyone else’s.

There does appear to be a situation where, if a comment or post is reported, and Facebook deems it necessary, it will be “hidden” until the admin deals with it. I’m not sure what it takes to get Facebook to do that, since I was unwilling to test it out by reporting my own pages for violations.

I do know that in order to get the Manhater page’s godawful commentary removed, it took dozens of people simultaneously complaining repeatedly. When only one person complained, it resulted in no action at all.


Ever hear about Busta Troll?

He’s a politically liberal Facebook user who spent a whole lot of time and effort infiltrating very offensive right-wing Facebook pages and gaining admin status, at which point he removed all the other admins and began posting goat memes everywhere. Whether you think this was a good activity to engage in or not, he was wildly successful until Facebook finally banned him.


Here’s an example of one of the milder goat memes. Most of them are hilarious.

Do you think that Busta Troll would have gone to all the trouble he did to create elaborate fake identities and nurture them over many months, quietly infiltrating these pages, gaining the trust of the administrators until they let him have admin status – if he could simply have gotten his accomplices (and he had many of them) to go to the pages and “hide” comments?


Remember when Beth Murschell had her Facebook page up, the one called “Truth Seeking,” that had the Queen and St. Catherine and Maytag all outraged? They were livid about almost everything posted over there.

They collectively complained bitterly, demanded that stuff be removed, and finally went and started their own pages (by the dozen, it seemed) to counteract it all.

Why didn’t they just “hide” the comments they didn’t like?

Not a single comment or post was ever “hidden” by anyone. There were a few removed by the admin (Beth), but that’s all. That’s because it cannot be done. (If somebody can show me how it’s possible to do this, I’d be happy to correct this. But don’t just write me and say, “I know it can be done.” Show me how.) If Camille and Cathy could have done so, there is no doubt they would have.

And that brings us full circle back to Bob Jones University, John F. Kennedy and “constructive criticism.” Just like BJU, Camille wants to control the conversation. The only criticism permitted is that which she believes she can adequately squash. There really isn’t any discussion, except that which she allows to occur and leads. And that is what “Truth Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones” is all about.