Uncle Frank's Diary

Number 27 / June, 2005

Bad Books! Bad, Bad Books!

(Conservative “Scholars” Reveal the Worst)

If the panoply of human folly and stupidity does not occasionally leave you weak in the knees, longing for the company of animals, you cannot be living in the same world that I am. It is possible, sometimes, to carry on more rational exchanges, and achieve more constructive results, with a dog or a cat than with the members of one’s own species.

Oh, Them Awful Books!

Consider, for example, the recent announcement by that redoubt of Righteousness, Human Events Online (www.humaneventsonline.com/), regarding the “Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.” This exercise in literary dopiness (its similarly-dopey companion is “10 Books Every Student Should Read in College”), aims to identify the books that have wrought the most havoc in the period in question. The list was compiled by “conservative scholars” and “public policy leaders.”

Is it worth anyone’s time to dwell on the titles that these “scholars” and “policy leaders” find so dangerous? No. Why would you care what these people think? Consider the individuals on whom Human Events relies for fodder:

  • “Family values” gangster and “Christian” activist Gary Bauer
  • That prominent model of conservative temperance and dignity, Ann Coulter
  • The Moonies’ own newspaper, the Washington Times
  • Fox “News” blowhard, Bill “Shut Up!” O’Reilly
  • Phyllis “Back to the Kitchen” Schlafly
  • and that peerless pillar of journalistic integrity and courage, Robert Novak

I mean, really: Would the opinions of people who trade what passes for thought with the likes of such folk be likely to stimulate your desire to know the content of conversations between said individuals? If you saw Bauer standing on a street corner engaged in chit-chat with Coulter, would you want to run up to them and listen in?

I thought not. So why would you care what books their like-minded pals—I’m sorry, their “policy leaders”—think are bad, bad, bad books?

Free, Affluent, and Living Out of a Shopping Cart

Anyhow, there’s the list of 10, and with each listing comes a shallow annotation purporting to present the entry’s badness in succinct fashion. Here’s some of what the “policy leaders” say about Marx’s work, Das Kapital. Old Karl was all wet, you see; he “could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate.”

Hey, really. Free and affluent. They’s rich people busy being free everywhere you go. I see them daily. I saw one the other day being escorted from the library where I work; she had what were apparently all her possessions in a grocery cart, and two campus safety staff members were gently guiding her back out of the building. Like happy Americans everywhere, this woman is enjoying the fruits of capitalism and representative government. (That’s the government that legislative heroes like Tom DeLay rig up through gerrymandering while they prattle about spreading democracy around the world.)

I trust that this woman is savoring her freedom and affluence while she sleeps outside on the ground. Shoot, it’s summer; it doesn’t get that cold.  Indeed, people everywhere “envy” and “seek to emulate” life in these United States. They all want to push grocery carts full of stuff. That’s because we’re number one!

And plenty subtle about it, too. That’s another reason why everyone loves, envies, and wants to be like us: because we wear our superlative superiority so very gracefully, and never give the impression that we think another culture, another people, another way of seeing the world, is not quite up to the snuff we snort.

Gosh, but we’re modest; modest, and proud of it. And rightfully so. Jesus loves us but good, don't you think?

Number One with a Bullet

What sorts of books turn up on the Inhuman Events pick-to-click list? Number one with a bullet in the back in the must-read ranks is the Bible. What, Huckleberry Finn you were expecting? Crime and Punishment, maybe?

According to the “scholars” who wave the Bible in yo’ face, it is “a volume that has been virtually banned in public schools by the United States Supreme Court.”

What do they mean by “virtually banned”? You can’t, like, look at it on a computer? Buh-loney. The Bible is readily available free, in full text, on the Web. Nearly any schoolboy or girl in America with access to a computer in the school library could Google up a version of the Bible and sit there reading it without a problem. Why, they could start at the beginning and bore themselves silly with all that begatting business in Genesis, and keep it up, if they wanted, until they finished Revelation and all its cwazy symbolism. And if they got tired of reading the blessed thing on the computer monitor, they could probably find the book in the flesh on the library shelves and sit down and read it the old fashioned way, one begat at a time.

Then they could go home and ask Mom and Dad to explain begatting.

I’m not sure how that works out to being “banned,” but I reckon the geniuses at Human Events know better than I about such things.

And Now for a Really Harmful Book!

Speaking of the Bible, has it not occurred to the HE gang that the “good book” might readily lead an alternative list of “most harmful books”? Consider the misery and death and ruined lives tied through history to this document. The Crusades, the Inquisition… torture, perversion, child abuse, the subjugation of women, encouragement of superstition and magical thinking, denial of scientific fact… why, when we’re tallying up black marks against books, the Bible bids fair to be the leader of the pack.

So, yeah, I look forward to getting home tonight so that I can talk to my cats, Dave and Wally, Jr. They make more sense than the people at Human Events and their book lists.

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Graphic by Karen McGinnis