Our nation looks totally crazy.
“A friend of mine has been shot! a shaken teenager told my son Friday afternoon after a sniper opened fire near a school in northwest DC
It was – as measured in the grim arithmetic of our national gun violence epidemic – a minor incident. No one was killed. Three adults and one child—my son’s friend’s classmate—were injured. His face was grazed by one of the bullets fired by a sniper into an apartment full of guns and ammunition. across from Edmund Burke School.
But the scarring toll something like this takes does more tangible damage than any book about a kid wondering if they’re gay. Books that deal with sexual orientation – in a country where same-sex marriage is the law of the land – are among the most targeted by this movement, which has attempted to link sexual and gender identity to pedophilia.
US schools issued at least 1,313 book bans in the last five months of 2021, including “Muffin Wars” and “Who is Barack Obama?”, according to PEN America’s School Book Ban Index.
During the same period – August to December 2021 – 28,170 children were inside a school when bullets were fired, according to the Washington Post School Shootings Database.
“The effects of gun violence ripple far beyond the child who has been hit by a bullet,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, senior director of research at advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, told WebMD la last week. “Children may mourn their friends who are now lost or worry about being next.”
She spoke about it when the New England Journal of Medicine said last week that gun violence was our nation’s number one killer of children. Homicide of children by firearm increased by more than 30% between 2019 and 2020, according to the newspaper.
This is the crisis that should be first on the agenda of anyone who says they lobby, legislate or organize on behalf of children: survival.
How many of us have felt more normal about puberty after reading Judy Blume? The same goes for children who can see themselves in books that address viewpoints beyond the predominantly white and male dominance of library shelves.
Instead, parents manipulated by fear-mongering politicians for their own gain target books that deal with race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Children watch parents yell at school board meetings and issue death threats against board members and librarians; as adults call for books containing stories about people who look like or like them to be burned. In Idaho, there’s a proposal before the state legislature to amend and jail librarians who lend books that the law would call “harmful” to children under 18.
He’s not a positive role model.
Certainly the shooting of four people at Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas left lasting psychological trauma in the 1,756 other students who were at the school that day.
But don’t be afraid! Parents in this state have saved their youth from books 714 times, including “A Home for Goddesses and Dogs,” the story of an 8th grade girl who recently lost her mother.
Florida, home to one of the deadliest school shootings in the country’s history, recently silenced “Everywhere Babies,” a charming book celebrating early childhood.
Some of the most impactful book bans have occurred in the DMV area, where businessman Glenn Youngkin exploited parents’ fears about literature and led them to the mansion of Virginia Governor l ‘last year.
These stories are supposed to give you nightmares
“Parents in Virginia are tired of the government telling them how to raise their children,” Youngkin wrote in a Washington Post op-ed after a victory fueled by an illusion of parental empowerment.
If parents want to have a say in what their children read, they need to build relationships with their children that include discussions about what they read. Parental involvement is hard work, and it’s not done by censoring and limiting what everyone has access to.
Youngkin aired an ad campaign using Virginia’s mother Laura Murphy, who embarked on the book ban a decade ago when Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Beloved” gave her high school night terrors.
If reading a historically accurate account of the horrors of slavery gave this Virginia boy nightmares, imagine what happens with the children who had to cower under their desks while gunfire shattered windows and people were screaming on DC’s well-dressed Van Ness Avenue last week.
Politicians who mistakenly focus on the culture wars are right about one thing: America needs to wake up — to the trauma its children experience daily, and not just when reporters show up to document it.
Last week’s shooting drew attention because of its location. But the numbers show us that shootings in and around schools in less affluent areas are common. And children who live with gunshots carry that trauma throughout their lives.
A tally by Everytown revealed 61 incidents of shootings on school grounds in 2016. That figure rose to 202 in just five years, in 2021, when many schools were still in pandemic lockdown.
The alarming increase in book bans – supposedly in the name of child protection – is misplaced energy that ignores the real traumas that are part of the daily lives of American children, whether they are shot, scarred through gun violence or hiding in a supply closet with a teacher in a lockdown drill, preparing for something our nation has allowed to become a part of life.