Life With Books: Abbreviated

by Jas Faulkner 

This is probably a bad thing to admit, but I participate in a forum that follows a reality show about the Duggar Family and yet I rarely if ever watch the actual show.  When I do, I see that about eighty percent of the commentary is pretty accurate, but there are moments when I watch and what I see doesn’t seem as bad as it has been made out to be .

On a recent episode, one of the Duggars, a son who is now grown and married and has his own household, showed the documentary crew his eldest child’s library.  It was a shelf that contained seven or eight books.  I have seen criticism about the paltry space and selection in this little girl’s collection.  There were two things I kept in mind as I watched this:  1. The child in question is two or three years old. 2. Neither of these young parents grew up in homes where there was an emphasis on education beyond learning the basics required to take care of a family.  Sad to say, that might be the case with the next generation of Duggars, but I hope it isn’t.  

Later in the episode, Anna, the mom, is shown taking their little girl to the public library.  In the voiceover, she disclosed that she has never had a library card.  She observes that Mackynzie is delighted by the shelves of books and mentions she’s probably thinking “Give me ALL the books!”  After that, they are shown participating in a story time event and checking out books.

I’m not a fan of the Duggars and they probably wouldn’t count themselves as fans of me, either.   The only things we have in common are taxonomic classification, heterosexuality, and theism.  Beyond that, we are completely different.  I mention this as a qualifier because what I saw on that episode was engaged parenting and the courage it takes to allow your children to explore, and frankly, it made me feel a little hopeful.  Maybe fundies, those who have been taught to eschew anything that is not a part of their belief system, will come to understand that their own beliefs are not diminished by allowing others the right to pursue the same freedoms they enjoy.

I bring all of this up because the cultural isolation so many paths like the ones the Duggars subscribe to often leads to a fear and loathing of anyone perceived as the other.  Is this really just the point of view of a fringe element?  Over 620, 000 people on Facebook pledged their support for an event known as “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day”   That figure is only a fraction of the people who took the opportunity to express their hatred for the LGBT community by lining up to buy chicken from a company that continues to underwrite legal measures that abbreviate the rights of people they don’t approve of in this country and fund organisations that murder people for being gay elsewhere.    These people who hate a specific segment of the population let themselves be shown and known on August first.

I am a native Nashvillian. I am also white, straight, and in my own unconventional way, a Christian.  Technically, this is not my fight.  So why do I find myself feeling queasy about my home two months later?  What happened here, what this says about Tennesseans   enforces the poor image outsiders have of our intellectual heritage.  The rich literary legacy my home has contributed to American arts and letters is overshadowed by hate and ignorance and it makes me sad.

I fear that one day that body of work will be eradicated because someone didn’t understand it or was offended by the points of view expressed in books, plays, poetry, histories and so on.  The person holding the mindset that says a fellow human being is less than human because they are different is not going to respect or care for the writings of people different from themselves.

I am saddened by the fact that we still need a banned books week.  I look for signs of hope everywhere I can find it.  This time around, I  found hope watching an episode of the Duggars.  Maybe at some point in the future, MacKynzie’s father, who expressed his own desire to go to law school as a teenager and saw that dream shut down,  will remember that God gave her a brain as well as a heart and will allow her free use of both.

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