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What Footloose Taught Us About Banning Books

Remember that scene in Footloose where Ariel and her preacher father, Reverend Shaw Moore, are in the church and she yells, "I'm not even a virgin!" and then someone runs in hollering for the preacher to stop the townspeople from burning books?

He dashes off to a group of people tossing books in a trashcan fire and says, "When did you all decide to sit in judgment? Who elected all of you to be the saviors of the souls in Beaumont?"

A townsperson says, "We have every right to determine what our children..." Reverend Shaw Moore asks, "After you burn all these books, what are you going to do then?"

Over the last several months, politicians have whipped up a book banning frenzy. In Texas, Republican State Representative Matt Krause issued a list containing 850 books he wants to ban from school libraries. According to The Washington Post, "A group of Texas school districts reported 75 attempts in the first four months of the 2021-2022 school year to censor children’s access to books. The number of attempts over the same period last year? Just one." "One of the biggest targets is Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust fable 'Maus.' After it was banned in a Tennessee school district last month, he readily conceded: 'This is disturbing imagery. But you know what? It’s disturbing history.'”

One of the reasons I, and other authors, write is to provide readers with an opportunity to experience disturbing situations through stories. That way, readers can experience those situations without having to endure actual discomfort or trauma.

Reading about other people's experiences helps us empathize. It helps us imagine what it might feel like to be the characters and what it might feel like to go through what the characters go through.

Reading provides knowledge and creates compassion for others. In addition to books about the Holocaust, the books politicians are banning include stories written by and about LGBTQ characters, people of color, immigrants, people who are abused and marginalized, and people from other cultures.

The list also includes books about sex education and books about rights such as The Legal Atlas of the United States, Teen Legal Rights, Gender Equality and Identity Rights (Foundations of Democracy), Equal Rights, We the Students: Supreme Court Cases for and About Students, and Peaceful Rights for Equal Rights.

The giant looming question is, if reading provides knowledge and an opportunity for readers to empathize and develop compassion for others, why do legislators want to stop people from reading these books?

Why would our "leaders" go to extreme lengths to ensure that Americans (children in particular) do not learn about each other's struggles and experiences? Why would having compassion for each other be seen as a threat to these leaders?

And why would our "leaders" perceive understanding personal rights as threatening?

This moment is a big flashing light of a reminder to stop and take a look around. Any time people seek to exert control, it's always a good idea to ask ourselves, "Why? What's in it for them?"

After we give that a long hard think, let's go back to what Reverend Shaw Moore asked in Footloose way back in 1984, "After you burn all these books, what are you going to do then?"


If you would like to take action against book banning, check out these badass Book Ban Busters at Red Wine & Blue and get involved today. Here's a snippet from their site: "Extremist politicians and outside groups are attacking our kids’ education. In fact, they’ve become SO extreme that they’ve resorted to book banning. They’ve even tried to ban books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

Well, suburban women aren’t having it. This is not the 1950's. Every kid should be equipped for the 21st century, and that means learning real history (not fairy tales) and respecting people across our differences. It means ensuring every kid feels safe to learn and thrive at school.

Join us to make sure our kids get an honest and accurate education."

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