I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I saw that a group called the Florida Citizens Alliance recently urged the state of Florida
to remove the children’s book “Everywhere Babies
” from school libraries for “extremely age-inappropriate content.”
But then I saw the illustrations. As you can see, they’re rather shocking.
Babies everywhere …
… taking up space …
… exhausting grownups …
… hogging the bed …
… and disturbing the peace.
want this book banned? It sends all the wrong messages.
The book is the cutest thing ever.
The best guess for why it was flagged is because two pairs of grownups in the book could possibly be same-sex couples. (Um … so what?) Of course, those grownups could also be friends, siblings, or neighbors. The book doesn’t specify.
Ultimately, the message of “Everywhere Babies” is love. Love for every kind of baby and every kind of grownup who cares for them.
So what’s really going on with the attempt to ban “Everywhere Babies” and other books?
I think Richard Price has it right when he says it’s about fear and control. Price is an associate professor of political science at Utah’s Weber State University and the founder of the Adventures in Censorship blog. He writes:
I’ve studied hundreds of challenges over decades and fear drives nearly all of them. This can come in many varieties, but as Judy Blume once noted, it is basically driven by a changing world that the book challengers don’t understand and thus fear.
It’s easy to poke fun at groups like the Florida Citizens Alliance, but I do find the fear that animates their worldview understandable. We’re living through really difficult, disorienting times. In a recent article, economist Brad DeLong describes modernity like this:
By the time you are 50, it is more likely than not that the occupation your father or mother had when you were born has vanished, or has at least been transformed utterly. As a result of the two or three waves of economic technology-driven creative-destruction you see over your life, you are free to choose your place in society, but you are definitely not free to choose that things just stay the same.
It’s human nature to want things to stay the same. Or revert to a simpler, supposedly more innocent time.
Change is scary, and when we’re afraid we look for someone or something to blame.
I understand now why my grandfather once told me late in his life, “I wish everything could just go back to the way it was.”
I think I also understand why he was anti-Semitic.
But books aren’t the problem.
Of course, me being me, I’d argue that they’re the solution. To just about everything. Heh.
(Here’s my obligatory public-service announcement: Read with your kids a little bit every day from birth through high school.)
So what do we do now?
The Washington Post’s Caitlin Gibson asks that question of the author and illustrator of “Everywhere Babies,” Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee.
Here are their replies:
- Susan Meyers: Parents have to open their eyes and see what’s going on around them. If you don’t agree with this take, what these people are doing, you better show up at your local school board meeting. Authoritarian and fascist communities, this is what they always go for, they always burn the books. It actually shows the power of books. If they didn’t have any power, they wouldn’t be burning or banning them. So that’s one thing to remember and celebrate: The power of books.
- Marla Frazee: I watched Mallory McMorrow’s speech the other day, the state legislator in Michigan. I feel like what she said — how either we oppose the rise of this hate or we enable it — that is absolutely the truth. I think that’s exactly where we are. So for parents, I just think what’s important is to stand up for the children who don’t have any voices. Even if you’re not in a county like Walton County, Florida, even if you’re in a county where you don’t think this is going to happen, it very well could happen. I think we all have to be very aware of that possibility and start speaking out. We can’t leave it to marginalized groups to speak out. We all have to speak out.