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 courtesy of Red


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I know that you’ve been involved with Make-A-Wish for decades, and it’s an amazing organization, but I’m not sure why you made such a big deal about the recent Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana chapter ’s dedication of its building. I appreciate that you were part of the planning group, but with all due respect, it’s just a building.

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I don’t expect you to remember that it all started in 1980 when Tommy Austin wanted to do something special for a young boy, Chris Greicius, who was battling leukemia and wanted to be a policeman. That wish became a reality and the start of The Make-A-Wish Foundation.


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That story has always inspired me as it makes you realize the difference that just one person can make. But the building wasn’t named after Chris or Tommy, so I’m still confused.
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I may not celebrate Rosh Hashanah by going to temple, and now that the girls are no longer home for the holiday, I don’t prepare a seder with the traditional foods . But I know and appreciate that it’s one of the most important Jewish holidays, as it’s a time for reflection on the past and hope for the future. And this year, between world events, where I feel surrounded by so much negativity, and on the personal front, with Mom’s passing, it seems more important than ever before.


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Although Rosh Hashanah is filled with traditions, like apples dipped in honey because it is believed apples have healing properties (think of the rhyme, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”), and the honey signifies the hope for a new year that will be sweet … it is still incredibly relevant. In today’s hectic world, a contemplative holiday where you stop and think about the road you have traveled over the last year (including any wrong turns) and where you would like to go in the future may be exactly what we all need.

We wish everyone who celebrates Rosh Hashanah a happy and sweet New Year. And remember, you don’t have to be Jewish to look back and reflect … and then try to do better in the future.

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


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So, I had to smile when Sawyer came to visit us at Mom’s estate sale. And even though I had seen her only a few hours before, I gave her a hug.


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Yes, you make it rather obvious that you are warm and fuzzy. And, a hugger.


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But what made me laugh was when she greeted you by acknowledging that you weren’t a hugger. Now there’s an understatement.


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No, it is merely a fact.


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I never realized, though, just how much both Natasha and Sawyer are like you. Although they begrudgingly let me hug them, they’d both be just as happy with a handshake. If that.


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Maybe a fist bump?
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