By Linda Rodriguez
We are living in dark times.
We are living in times when lies are elevated above the truth and fantasies and
“alternative facts” are elevated above fact and reality by too many of our
leaders and those in power over us.
We are living in times when the former president of the United States tweets out his desire to censor newspapers, television news programs, entire sections of the press, and published books. So far, he has not succeeded in this, even though he daily tweets out his condemnation of “fake news” and his desire to change the libel laws to undercut the First Amendment, but the situation looks grimmer every month and week and day.
We are living in times when the free press is called “the enemy of the people.” We are living in times when organized political hate groups are attacking books, including Anne Frank’s diary, in the press, in our schools, in our libraries, and in the courts. In fact, we are living in times that become more and more reminiscent of the rise of Nazi Germany than we would like to believe or experience. It reminds me forcibly of the book burnings of the Nazi regime. Probably because of the multiple threats to begin burning these banned books they hate so much.
One of the earliest and most
important steps a dictatorship must take is to seize control of the narrative.
Thus, we see the multitude of lies and the constant accusations of fake news.
The next step is censorship, which grants so much control over what the
populace can know, and after censorship comes the destruction of books and
magazines which contain the truth and not the regime’s propaganda. Along with
this, we always find persecution of journalists and writers and poets who are not
willing to spout the regime's line. Unfortunately, history gives us all too
many examples of this through the ages. In the photograph at the top of this
blog, Nazis are burning books in Germany.
This poem is about this process of banning books, which continues to be a threat down through history. Not too long ago, we had books by Latino and Native and Black authors banned in public school districts in the Southwest, which led to a band of activists gathering those forbidden books and smuggling them across multiple states into those school districts to educate those children. This was called the Librotraficante movement and led to the courts reinstating those books in the school district. We may all be called on again to do something like this to defend the precious written word. Vigilance is the price of freedom.
SPELL FOR BANNING A BOOK
First, find a censor.
This will be hard—
not that censors are rare,
but they are adept mimics.
Do not be fooled. No matter
how benevolent its disguise,
a frightened censor is dangerous.
Approach with caution.
To safely capture it
for your spell, you must circle
the censor chanting soothing
It is meaning that terrifies
Surround the stupefied censor
with charms made from advertising
photographs of a mythical golden age—
in high heels and aprons, silent fathers
keeping sentinel on horseback, sexless
children never asking
questions. Sacred to the censor,
such charms have power
to blind it.
Select the book
you want banned.
Set it outside the circle
of charms, and carefully
remove the charm nearest
so the censor can detect
the presence of an attempt
Enraged censors have been known
not only to ban books
but to burn them
and then press on to people.
Published in Dark Sister (Mammoth Publications, 2018)
Linda Rodriguez's fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, Every Family Doubt, the follow-up to Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, Revising the Character-Driven Novel, and her co-edited anthology, Unpapered: Writers Consider Native American Identity and Cultural Belonging, will publish in 2023. Her novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and books of poetry— Dark Sister, Heart's Migration, and Skin Hunger—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book, Midwest Voices & Visions, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.
Rodriguez is past chair of AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus and Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and member of Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com.