Mike Hughes: Judge this book by the content of its character
Liberal scorn was on full display after the Randolph County Board of Education voted to remove a questionable book from county school libraries. North Carolina was once again cast in a negative light by the mainstream media. National headlines proclaimed the banning of books in the state! A writer for the LA Times used the words embarrassment and shame to describe the “largely rural county.” Predictably, the stories were one-dimensional, completely leaving out the possibility that any rational person could support the removal of this particular book from a high school library and completely ignoring the fact that this so-called book ban wouldn’t have prevented a single person from reading the book.
This is a common liberal tactic. Come on strong and frame the argument in a way that can’t be beat. “If you don’t agree with us, then you’re a book-burning troglodyte.”
Instead of putting thought into what is or isn’t age-appropriate reading material for high school students, liberals used simple-minded headlines about banning books in an attempt to agitate a mob response. And it worked. In the end, only a single board member voted for the book’s removal.
While liberals were directing their contempt at our state, they were full of praise for the book in question. The LA Times story called Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man a “modern classic on racism” and an “iconic novel of African American angst.” Just about every news story pointed out that the novel was written in 1952 and won numerous awards. All that may be true, but there are questions related to subject matter, presentation and maturity of the readers, that should be answered before any book is endorsed by any school board.
And as usual, there’s more to the story. While it’s not clear if Ellison was an actual Communist Party USA member, he was certainly associated with the party. The Wikipedia page on Ellison says that he published and edited communist publications. Apparently, Invisible Man was in part a critique of Marxism after Ellison lost faith in the CPUSA. This was not a critique of Marxism in the same way that I would critique Marxism. Ellison was clearly a man of the far-left. An interesting on-line book review says, “Invisible Man is not a rejection of Marx per se, but rather a rejection of the Stalinism of the [CPUSA].” The review ended with the suggestion that Ellison was interested in “a more fully developed Marxism.” So here we have a disgruntled communist who longed for a better Marxism and ended up being what a writer for the Wall Street Journal called a “Lyndon Johnson democrat.”
The concerned parent in Randolph County wrote 11 pages on why this book is inappropriate for high school readers. Her complaint can be found on the Randolph County Board of Education website. Apparently, this book “goes into great detail about sexual encounters.” One character gives an account of “raping his daughter in the same bed next to his wife…” It’s no surprise that liberals find this to be acceptable reading material for high school students, but what about everyone else?
One of the local residents quoted in the LA Times story asked, “How can they ban it based on one person’s complaint?” Isn’t that the way it works with public prayer? But in the case of public prayer, that one person remains anonymous. The concerned parent in Randolph County had her name published nationwide.
If there’s any good to come out of this, it will be that more parents start to pay more attention to what’s going on in their children’s schools. Look inside the books, if you dare. You probably won’t like what you find.
Mike Hughes is a Navy veteran who lives in High Point. His column appears here every other Sunday. To comment, visit www.hpe.com and click on opinion. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.