Words & Banter

RED & BLACK … Ban This Column?

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I’ve finally started watching “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Have you watched it?


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No, but I have read about the premise behind the book and the series because after Roe v. Wade was overturned, social media started comparing the series to what was happening in real life, with women having no control over their reproductive rights.


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The similarities are even scarier. It takes place in the near-future after the U.S. government (including the Constitution) has been overthrown, and the new republic’s controlled by a ruling class of men. Men who are religious extremists and enforce their religious beliefs on everyone.


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Well, there goes separation of church and state. But, I guess that is much more efficient than starting with Justices of the Supreme Court who vote based on their religious beliefs, and then proceeding from there.


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That’s NOT funny. In the show, they use religion as an “excuse” for horrible acts against people. For example, women aren’t allowed to read; and if caught, they cut off a finger so everyone knows their “crime”.


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Of course, women are not allowed to read. Reading opens your mind and can give you different perspectives. And, teaches you to think for yourself. I appreciate the series is fictional, but I am confident the underlying book will end up being just one more that some schools and libraries ban.

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You know I love history and believe learning from the past helps us understand the present and shape the future. What I don’t understand is banning books that “dare” to explore controversial issues. That’s why even books that I may disagree with, or think are awful (in terms of subject matter, not the writing itself), are so important. They reflect the issues, the challenges, the beliefs of what we’re facing as a society.

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What I find so infuriating is that educators, or more specifically, state agencies and school boards, talk about the need for students to develop critical thinking skills.Yet, they want to ban books that might actually teach them to think critically. And, independently. In an environment that could also teach them about differing perspectives.

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It’s almost as if educators are against education. Or maybe it’s just that they’re afraid students might learn something that doesn’t fit their own agenda. I hate to say this about the education world, but every day it seems to become more and more political.

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That is an understatement. Do you remember the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, when Ted Cruz asked her about the “Antiracist Baby” book?

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Yes. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why he was making such a big deal of a book written for young children. From what little I knew about it, the premise is that no one’s born a racist; it’s something you learn. I can’t imagine having an issue with that.

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He was pressing her on issues of racism and the teaching of critical race theory, which is a very controversial topic. Taking issue that she was on the Board of Trustees at a private school that teaches from the book and phrasing it to insinuate that babies are being taught to be racists.

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Huh? That sounds like he twisted the words to try and make her look bad. But I admit I haven’t read the book.

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I did. I, like many other people, immediately ordered it. (Cruz’s tirade made it an Amazon bestseller.) It is a beautifully illustrated book that poses nine simple questions to start conversations about racism. I know it is a children’s book, but I think it should be required reading in all schools. And, by all school boards. And, for any grownups who think racism is wrong and want to do something about it.

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Well, I think it would be more likely to end up on a “banned book” list than required reading. Unfortunately, I’m sure there are lots of books we read growing up that are no longer taught in some schools.

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To Kill A Mockingbird” ended up being one of my all-time favorite books, but it has become very controversial. However, I was probably focused on Atticus’s legal maneuvering and Scout questioning authority versus the racist issues.


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Gee, what a surprise. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the story, although I know it’s a classic. And won a Pulitzer Prize back in 1961, before I was even born. I hate when things are taken out of context. Instead of discussing the book’s message and looking at it in the light of people’s beliefs at the time and discussing how beliefs have (or have not) changed, they act as if it’s being written today.


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The supposed logic about banning it was that it had strong language, including the n-word, and the discussion of sexuality and rape. Interestingly, they sidestepped the most obvious topic – racism. Which begs the question, “Why?” Unless, of course, you have something to hide.


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It’s a very dangerous climate we’re living in, and I’m not talking about climate change. About six months ago, I watched the original (1966) version of the movie “Fahrenheit 451” which takes place in the not-so-distant future where books and intellectual thought are illegal. And I thought how back then I’d have considered it science fiction, but now I wonder if it’s a forecast of things to come.


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To some extent, you do not have to outlaw intellectual thought. Social media and biased-media are doing their best to stop it, which is why news literacy is more important than ever. But, the banning of books as a way to control not only what students think, but to prevent them from learning to question and discuss beliefs different from their own, and then make their own decisions, is not only scary, but dangerous.


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This conversation started with me simply asking if you’ve seen “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But somehow, you turned it into a discussion about the banning of books and what we teach in school. All I now know is that I’d like to bury my head in the sand.


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Being an ostrich is the opposite of what you should do. All these fictional stories, whether movies, television series, or books, have people that stand up for what they believe is right. So, why not be both entertained and inspired?


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So, you’re telling me I need to speak up and speak out?


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And, hope one day we have enough of a following that someone wants to ban Red & Black.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo by OnTheRunPhoto for iStock


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I keep getting emails about where to go for mocktails. I know alcohol-free cocktails, like Virgin Margaritas, have been around for a while, but I’d never heard that term before. Do you think it has to do with New Year’s resolutions?


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It can if any of your resolutions are to lose weight, save money, sleep better. Or, drink less. Psychologically, January is the month when we “reset”, so a UK-based organization, Alcohol Change UK, started Dry January, where you abstain from drinking alcohol.


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Perfect timing since many people shop, eat, and drink more than usual over the holidays.


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I know you used to drink a glass of Cold Duck on New Year’s Eve, a tradition going back to our childhood, but that hardly counts as drinking. But, I have always wondered why you rarely drink, but never asked.
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Popcorn! Quite simply, it’s one of my absolute favorite things. Starting when I was a child, whenever I went to the movies, I’d get (and finish!) the largest bucket of popcorn available. And I always thought movie popcorn was far superior to what you could make at home … until a recent trip to visit a close friend in Tennessee, and she introduced me to Great Northern Popcorn (I promise this isn’t a paid ad). Now I’m addicted to it as I can make it on my cooktop. I know Black would be more interested in the science of what makes popcorn pop, but I prefer to just be obsessive about my popcorn …

Popcorn. Just the thought of popcorn makes me smile, makes me want to indulge, makes me happy. And I’m guessing my popcorn obsession makes Black roll her eyes (although she might admit it can be a healthy snack). However, plenty of people must love popcorn as much as I do. Why else would there be a National Popcorn Day?!

Over the past few years, the pandemic posed challenges that none of us could’ve foreseen (and I’ll never forget the dedication of the front-line workers or make light of the sacrifices so many had to make). But part of me has to laugh at the irony because it ended my seemingly easy “escape” from the stresses of life – going to the movies and enjoying the largest bucket of popcorn – when I needed it the most.

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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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You’re going to roll your eyes, but lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about myself.


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That is totally out of character, unless you are thinking of New Year’s resolutions.


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Actually, no. For decades, my priorities, and therefore my life, have always been focused on the girls and Mom. But that’s all changing. And I’m not sure how to “change” with it.
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