Language and the Truth

I’m sort of old-fashioned in that I tell my creative writing students that they have a responsibility to the truth of their own experience and that the way they use language reveals the extent to which they have taken that responsibility seriously. Listening to Sarah Palin reminds me of nothing so much as listening to an unprepared & incurious freshman discussing the reading for the day. After listening to Palin for a while, I feel stupider than when I began. In recent days I have found that immediately after listening to Palin, reading a big chunk of Beckett or Chekov is the best antidote. See also: The poetry of Sarah Palin — not since rumsfeld have we had such a master.

Sarah Palin & Censorship

Perhaps the list I posted below is a hoax, but as I said in my correction, Palin’s ideology is just fine with banning books. I grew up among Palin’s people, I know them. They are intolerant, aggrived, and deeply anti-intellectual. And homophobic. Now it appers that, while the particular list may have been made up, Palin did attempt to get books taken off the Wasilla Public Library’s selves because she found them personally offensive.

Josh Marshall on McCain / Palin

Most people who come by this space probably also read Josh Marshall’s TPM, but if you don’t, then please read this post about John McCain. I wonder if Nancy Pelosi will “take impeachment off the table” when it turns out that Vice President Palin has lied to the grand jury investigating Troopergate, as she inevitably will.

I’m not saying that Obama will not win, but as Marshall notes, it is clearly possible that John McCain will be our next president, as lying, race-baiting, & morally unfit a president as we will have had since Nixon. And if McCain is our next president, speaking personally, I will simply have to give up the last shreds of my liberal American idealism & admit to myself that I live among a jingoistic, shallow, racist, selfish, & stupid citizenry. So, yeah, I’m an elitist — I believe in trying to find the truth, however provisional — while my salt-of-the-earth fellow Americans — at least half of them, those ordinary folk Mrs. Palin is supposed to appeal to — have become the sort of radical moral relativists so long denounced by the culture warriors of the hard right, a deeply ironic turn of events the right itself  seems completely unaware of. Allan Bloom & William Bennett where art thou?

Books Sarah Palin Wanted Banned

Update & Correction: See Mary’s comment below, which links to this Snopes debunking of the story about Palin. This list, though, remains representative of the sort of cultural limits that the radical right would like to enforce; insofar as the vice presidential nominee is a radical Christianist, she subscribes to an ideology that is in favor of banning books like the ones listed below, all of which have come under attack in the past by would-be censors. So, perhaps a reporter of debate moderator will ask, “Mrs. Palin, which books did you have in mind when you enquired of Mary Ellen Emmons, the town librarian of Wasilla, whether it might be possible to remove certain titles?”

According to someone posting a comment to Maureen Dowd’s column at the New York Times, this is the list of books that Sarah Palin tried to have removed from the Wasilla Public Library. The commenter says the list comes from the official minutes of the Library Board and that when Palin was unsuccessful at having these books banned, she tried to have the librarian fired. The list:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and ChristopherCollier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick F

Several things are worth noting about this list, the first being that while some of the titles are clearly included because they are thought by Christianists to be “inappropriate for children,” this is not a school library we’re talking about but the town’s public library. Sarah Palin, then, would like to erase Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, John Knowles, Alice Walker, and Arthur Miller from American literature. It would be interesting if some reporter could ask Mrs. Palin what, specifically, she objects to in these texts; because I’d bet she hasn’t read them, that they come off some fundamentalist master list. There’s another category of books on the list — typified by the J.K. Rowling titles — that indicate the way in which Christianists are offended by any form of magic other than their own kind of magic. Some of the picks are just bizarre: “Mrs. Palin,” one would like to hear the debate moderator ask, “What is it about One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn that you find offensive? or One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?” Of course it will never happen. Later: Reading the list over again just now, it’s also pretty clear that Palin is frightened of adolescence & would like to be able to ban the introspection & sexual energy of young people. Her desire to take J.D. Salinger & John Knowles off the shelves is really just an extension of the “abstinence only” sex-ed policies she favors for school children & that have served her family so well.

The Campaign

I’ve given quite a bit of money to the Obama campaign this year & I’m likely to give more, but not until I see them go on the attack. I got an email this morning form David Plouffe (me & millions of other contributors) to the effect that the answer to Sarah Palin’s sneering attack on “community organizers” is to say, “Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.” sorry, the right response will be to hang Palin out to dry for her lies & radical right-wing ideas. Don’t explain, don’t complain — make the right wing culture warrior play defense. That’s when I’ll cut another check.

Later: Here is another view of the email I referred to above. I also posted the above paragraph in a discussion thread at TPM, where one person responded by saying that “getting down in the mud” with McCain & Palin was a losing strategy. I don’t think you hve to get down in the mud in order to aggressively attack the lies & distortions coming out of the Republican convention — Mitt Romney’s assertion that McCain / Palin will change “liberal Washington” doens’t meet the laugh test & ought to be mocked mercilessly. Same goes for the Republican’s claims to be “reformers.” And it is not “getting down in the mud” to point out that Sarah Palin, as a mayor, tried to get the librarian to remove Harry Potter from the library because it offended her Christianist beliefs; then, when the librarian refused to go along, that Palin tried to fire her. Palin wants to put her experience as mayor up against Obama’s Harvard law degree & public service? Great, let’s look at the quality of Palin’s experience. The Republicans have decide this election is going to be fought on cultural grounds. Bring it on.