Support Your Local Libraries

I’m occasionally political on this blog. Normally it’s bringing up discussion of the politics of a particular work and how it impacts my perspective on it while I’m reviewing it or Let’s Playing it because, ultimately, all art is political. However, I don’t, you know, get into current events – partly because my audience is kind of international and partly because with exceptions Current Events discussion ages poorly. However, there’s a current political issue going on in the US that, indirectly, puts this blog under existential threat – so I need to talk about that.

Libraries are under attack.

Not my local library in particular – my particular chunk of Oregon appears to be safe for now, but plenty of libraries elsewhere, some even just down the road from me, have been subjected to threats from parents, ostensibly seeking to ban books for being “pornographic filth” – books that frequently just… represent LGBT people, or people of color, and acknowledge the racial inequalities that exist in this country for those people of color. In a lot of cases, the parents filing these challenges haven’t even read the books, they’re challenging them because some pundit on TV or on the radio, or on the internet told them this book needs to be banned. Further, often the people doing the challenges are a loud, very vocal minority of the parents in a district or city or county – the Canby example has just two parents who are responsible for this. This also leads to various school board elections where you have candidates running arguing for “parents’ rights” as a dog-whistle for gutting school libraries and any curriculum that would cover those topics (i.e. the history of the civil rights movement, LGBT issues, mistreatment of Native Americans by the US government, the Holocaust – all topics I was taught about in Middle School and High School)

However, by comparison, Oregon’s got it easy.

By comparison, there’s the American South. The Secretary of State of Missouri is trying to circumvent the state legislature through a rule that would allow funding to be stripped from libraries that don’t meet his nebulous requirements for barring minors from reading certain books that their parents object to. This would kill some branch libraries outright.

Here’s the thing. As an Autistic kid – libraries, both my local public library and in school, were a safe place for me, and through libraries I kind of discovered who I was. I discovered books about film and its history through my libraries. I rediscovered my love for pro wrestling when I reshelved Mick Foley’s first autobiography when I was volunteering. I saw my first Bruce Lee movie by checking it out at the library. While my introduction to anime was through the Sci-Fi Channel, I was able to get my hands on a wider array of anime (before Netflix was a thing) much more readily through the library than through any local video store.

And yes, I’m heterosexual, which is not uncommon, but I can say with confidence I learned more about sex, sexuality, and sexual health (including reproductive health) through libraries. While yea, the people who are challenging books as being “pornographic filth” would probably object to me having learned about homosexuality, being transsexual, bisexuality, masturbation, oral sex (and, for that matter, types of sex other than the missionary position), and not only that all of those things were normal, but that sex felt good and people did it for purposes other than procreation and that’s okay. Nevermind just general anatomical and medical stuff beyond how my genitals medically work, but also how women’s genitals work (like the menstrual cycle). Hell, I learned more about what menopause is from spending time in libraries than in my grade school sex ed courses.

I can say, with full confidence, that everything I know about myself, who I am, what I like, and why I like it, from a philosophical standpoint, a sexual identity standpoint, a religious standpoint, and in terms of my tastes in fiction, film, games, comics, and music, because of spending time in libraries. I would not deny that opportunity to anyone else – especially people who aren’t like me – people of color, LGBT people, and where we all intersect.

Not to mention, this blog continues to exist thanks to libraries. Many of the books I’ve reviewed on the site, along with a lot of the manga are ones I’ve checked out from my local library. With Netflix dropping DVD mailing coming soon, I’ll probably be going back to relying on libraries more for films as well, either through physical disks or through partner services like Hoopla or Kanopy.

So, in conclusion, for those of you who have upcoming elections in the United States, I urge you to please vote all the way up and down the ballot, and to pay attention to who is running for various positions on the ballot and what their platforms actually are – it could mean the difference as to whether your library will continue to exist or not.

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