Oh they’ll never come for the classics, the book banners will tell you. Until of course they do.
Adam Tritt, an Honors and AP English teacher from Florida’s Bayside High School told me how the fascist book-banning mob, led by groups like Moms for Liberty, are successfully doing just that.
“I received an email from my department head referencing my principal [who he says he really likes], stating that I need to take ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ off of my shelves and make sure they are no longer available for the students and that the principal has to report to the county that this has been done,” Tritt told me.
The Kurt Vonnegut anti-war classic is one of 41 books challenged by the Brevard County chapter of Moms for Liberty. According to a May 11 article in Florida Today, one reason the group challenged the book by the WWII veteran and former POW who survived the firebombing of Dresden is because of a passage the group says contained “‘inflammatory religious commentary’ that mocked the New Testament in a satirical manner.”
It should be noted that even though the book has only been challenged, it was still pulled from library shelves and classrooms, something that shouldn’t happen (though now often does), and as Tritt pointed out amounts to a de facto ban. District officials told Florida Today it could take over a year to review all of the books being challenged.
This should serve as a warning to Bucks County teachers, librarians, parents, and students, unless of course you believe you have a superintendent willing to stand up and actually fight for what is right.
But how Tritt responded should also serve as a model for resistance: Stand up, speak out, and push back.
“I tend to get pissed off about righteous stuff and I try to do something about it,” said Tritt.
So he did something. He set up an online fundraiser, initially to see if he could raise $1,000 to buy some used books.
“I plan to purchase used copies (locally, whenever available) to distribute to age-appropriate students at various locations in our county over the summer. Slaughterhouse-Five, Handmaid’s Tale, The Kite Runner … If Brevard has removed it, I will make it available, getting as many as I can into as many hands as I can,” Tritt wrote on his GoFundMe page. “I will enlist the help of many local businesses as distribution points and I’d love your help to get this done.”
Is he afraid of losing his job? Yes, he told me. When I followed up by asking Tritt, who has over 20 years teaching experience, why he is still doing this, he replied, “I have ethics.”
As of publication time he has raised $25,498. The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis is also lending its solidarity by offering to send at least 1,000 books to Brevard County students or parents.
Julia Whitehead, founder and CEO of the library and museum criticized Moms for Liberty in an open letter, calling what the group was doing “an act that is worthy of rebellion.”
“But we don’t actually have to rebel,” wrote Whitehead, “because these are our rights as Americans. We just simply have to help the school officials and elected officials to understand that the Constitution is our law of the land. The whims of one group of moms is not the law of our land.”
Sadly, there is the law, and then there’s reality. And the reality is that with right-wing majority school boards, a few loud ideologically-driven parents, either complicit or quiet superintendents, and lawmakers like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano , the law, or in this case the Constitution, doesn’t mean much.
And don’t fool yourselves, they aren’t stopping with school libraries. Republicans are going after book sellers like Barnes & Noble from selling certain books.
This isn’t just about banning books. This is about indoctrination.
“We are in danger of creating a single story for our students that America is the arc from freedom, to greater freedom, to greater freedom,” said Tritt. “That there have been no trips along the way, there have been no falls or mistakes along the way. That America is the land of opportunity and complete equality … and if you want to behave the right way you need to behave like a proper white person.”
So these book banning campaigns that we are seeing in local school districts like Pennridge and Central Bucks and in state legislatures are indeed “worthy of rebellion.”
The question remains: How will you rebel?