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Human Rights Law

: Never In Our Names

Monday Night Book Club: They're Shuttering The Libraries, Again

By blueness

In the "Donkey Bookmobile" edition of Monday Night Book Club, I noted that the libraries around here had only recently recovered from decades of drastically reduced hours and skeletal staffs.

I spoke too soon.

With Governor Terminator and the clown-car known as the California State Legislature having once again thoroughly wrecked the state budget, the asphyxiating county here has determined that the way to give itself some financial air is to basically strangle all the libraries. The cuts contemplated would pretty much reduce this to the ignorantest county in California.
There is probably something genetic in governments that propels them to shutter libraries whenever possible. I have sometimes been amused by the bickering among interested combatants as to who destroyed the great Library of Alexandria: Alexander himself, Romans, Christians, or Muslims. The answer, of course, is all of them. There was just too much good stuff in there, stuff guaranteed to discomfit any true believer, regardless of his or her allegiance.

The struggle to get unfiltered information into the hands and brains of Regular People has been ongoing for centuries. Most people don't understand this, because they live in an era when people are swamped with information: wasn't it always that way? Inform them, for instance, that the man who first had the effrontery to translate the Bible into English was strangled and burnt at the stake for the heresy of presuming that anyone but priests could transmute the Holy Word, and they just blink.

Though we daily drown in information, most of it is designed to sell us on something, be it a deodorant or a demagogue. The beauty of a proper library is that it allows you to sell yourself: it houses a kaleidoscope of opinions, the volumes bickering with one another; one may weigh and consider the contending books at one's own pace, inclination, and leisure.  

Of the five members of our Board of Supervisors, I would guess that only two have read an actual book in the past five years. One may have read something by Michael Savage or Mark Levin. The other two, I am sure, limit their reading to the crawls at the bottom of their television screens, tuned permanently to Fox News.

And so this local Board of Supervisors plans to ensure that "30 years of progress can be undone in a heartbeat."

The local daily newspaper, mostly a dry, musty, conservative production, has pathetically come to the libraries' defense by arguing that such reading rooms are a tool of crime prevention. Presumably the editorialists thought they'd score big with this argument, seeing as how, even as county potentates prepare to descend on the libraries like Vandals, they meanwhile ensure that law-enforcement officials of every description continue to completely cover this county, like some sort of infestation of blue-suited taser- and baton-wielding ants.

A final decision on the destruction of the county's libraries will come in May. I'll report. You decide.

So what are ya'll reading? I'm in a blah place, currently. Was enchanted with the first 400 pages or so of Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed, but am now slogging through a seemingly endless passage heaping hosannas on Christianity, which I should have suspected from this 18th Century Italian who thoroughly rewrote the novel once he developed a serious Catholic jones. Am also desultorily trudging through Zola's His Excellency, the only novel in his 20-volume Rougon-Macquart series I hadn't read, but it's not very good. Then there's Edouard Glissant's The Fourth Century, a needlessly dense novel about Martinique. Another Frenchman, Alain Danielou, is alternately enlightening, amusing, and exasperating me with Shiva and Dionysus: a book by one of those guys who thinks he's discovered, in the mists of the past, "the true religion."  

Full post as published by Never In Our Names on April 20, 2009 (boomark / email).

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