Bannin' Books, Kansas-Style:
You need a larf in these tragic times? You need a little political sorbet to cleanse the mental palate as the mindboggling parade of scandals, from Duke Cunningham to more Rove to whatever the fuck is going on with Iraq, starts to get to ya? Then click on over to the website for the Overland Park, Kansas group, "Citizens for Literary Standards in Schools," and get ready to double over, 'cause it's a motherfuckin' blast.

See, the group of parents, which calls itself, it seems, "CLaSS," (or, more, properly, "classKC") wants to bring "decency" back to the required reading materials for students in the Blue Valley district. The coolest part of the site? Why, CLaSS provides a list of offending passages from each of the books it wants banned. No more do the students, hands grimy and unwashed after masturbation, have to underline and giggle at the bad words. CLaSS has done the works for them. Wanna know where the narrator talks about her vagina in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? CLaSS helpfully provides it.

And, look, CLaSS gives a list of all the dirty words in Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato: "bitch, shit, Jesus Christ, fuckin’, bastard, for Christ sake, Jesus, son of a bitch, shitting, fucking, good shit, shit, sorry ass, happy-assed, bad shit, piss tube, shitter, shithead, fucker, dink, gook." Notice the nuance there: "fucking" is different from "fuckin'." It's the kind of post-structuralist ellision of meaning that'd do Gilles Deleuze proud. (And, yes, racism offends CLaSS, but it's certainly an afterthought to a "good shit.") Oh, and CLaSS lists the violence of this novel about, well, fuck, the Vietnam War.

Once upon a time, in a school district in a Southern state, the Rude Pundit's mother was the secretary to the Superintendent of Schools. This was back in the 1970s, when a large majority of citizens actually believed that teachers and educators were best qualified to decide what was the proper way to ensure that students were learning. This was when declaring war on public schools was seen as a product of either fringe ideology or wealthy elitism. Of course, even in these enlightened times, movements would get under way for something that stuck in the craw of the Christian right.

In this case it was a book, Catcher in the Rye, with its copious use of "goddamn" (186 times), its failure to condemn prostitutes, and its six uses of the word "fuck" (numbers courtesy of the CLaSS website), that got the rabble a-rumblin' for its ban from the classrooms of the county. Rude Mom told stories of the Superintendent standing up to the upset parents for he knew this to be true: they did not represent what most of the kids cared about, nor did they represent what the teachers cared about, nor did they represent what most of the parents cared about; they only represented what they cared about, and that was moral purity, man, against all this hippie-influenced open-mindedness. He also knew that to let them get a foot into the door of the classroom was to let them burst in and "fuck" check the libraries of the school district.

The Super stood firm, against protests and angry letters, calls, threats, and more. And the school board backed him, for he stayed Super for the next eight years.

In Kansas, the Blue Valley school district gave in and removed the book that had gotten the whole ball rolling, Tobias Wolff's memoir, This Boy's Life. The act, of course, empowered CLaSS to push for many more exchanges of "bad" books for "good" ones, like ones by Zane Grey, noted proponent of anti-violent conflict resolution, and, of course, by that teacher of good moral values, Mark Twain. So far the exchange has failed.

Of course, the motives of hypocrites and cowards are always easily revealed, and, as ever, the words "values" and "traditional" mean "Christian." 'Cause, like, in no realm of legitimate literary study are the works of, say, Catherine Marshall considered superior to the much-banned Toni Morrison. And, while violence in Vietnam is problemmatic for CLaSS, gore in the Civil and other wars is just dandy (check out the list for all the strangely violent works).

And, oh, ho, ho, we've all had a good liberal laugh at the fuck-tards from Kansas, haven't we? Ah, shit, how much we love ribbin' ol' creation-lovin', book-burnin' Kansas. Then you dig just a little further into the site, and you come across the section on "Blogs." And you read this: "[W]e believe that 'what you let your mind dwell on, you become' and 'garbage in, garbage out' are very apt statements. The profanity, obscenity and vulgarity that our children are bombarded with today from all directions easily become part of their everyday thoughts, conversations and actions. Therefore, classKC has decided to also 'shine the light' on what we believe are the many dangers of teen blogging (in particular, xanga) in our geographic area."

You look over the list of blogs of teenagers, of current and former Blue Valley High School students, and you see that everything is lumped in together, from the blogs of members of the band and cheerleaders and debate club, with the "Niggas In Blue Valley" blog ring, with the alumni blog, and you realize, in the pit of your gut that what the Super also realized long, long ago: it's about thought control, man.

And then the sorbet is done because you connect the fuckin' dots, between the parents of Overland Park, Kansas, the federal government spying on us, even the latest "let-me-see-your-I.D." movement in Miami, and you realize that those kids don't stand a fuckin' chance. 'Cause all they're gonna learn is that power can strip away rights indiscriminately, all under a mad rubric of "protection," from terrorists, from impure thoughts, from each other. And they're gonna learn it's just easier to give in than to fight it.

(Note: link to classKC.org from Americablog. And the Rude Pundit won't link to individual students' blogs - they ain't writin' fer us.)