Cancel Culture & Censorship: Two Sides of the Same Coin
January 31, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – “For the Children” Weekly Column
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
OKLAHOMA CITY – There has been much conversation about censorship and “cancel culture” recently. They are two sides of the same coin, and both are dangers to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Some would whip the masses into a frenzy to protest or ban conversations that do not align with their perceptions. Ironically, some of the people complaining most about cancel culture are the first ones lining up to censor books.
A recent example of cancel culture/censorship is a school district’s ban of the Pulitzer-prize winning graphic novel “Maus” from eighth grade classes in a Tennessee school district citing “unnecessary use of profanity and nudity in its depiction of violence and suicide” for the ban.
“Maus” was the creation of Art Spiegelman, an artist who took stories shared by his father about his time Nazi Germany and his parents’ imprisonment. The reference to nudity and suicide was a one-panel interpretation of the death of Spiegelman’s mother when she took her own life in later years because of the trauma of being in the concentration camp. Throughout the book, you will see a graphic narrative of what millions of Jews endured at the hands of fascists.
Regarding the ban, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stated, “‘Maus’ has played a vital role in educating about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors. Teaching about the Holocaust using books like ‘Maus’ can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today.”
The resulting furor led Nirvana Comics in Knoxville, Tennessee, and other shops to offer free copies to students in McMinn County, the home of the school district banning the novel. The support generated through their “Go Fund Me” account led to four times the amount requested, which created the opportunity for students from across the United States to reserve a free copy simply by messaging the shop on their Facebook or Twitter accounts.
While I understand the need to provide age-appropriate materials, history must be taught factually and in a way that interests students. Many schools across the country have chosen this novel for students to learn the horrors of the Holocaust.
I own a copy of “Maus.” What prompted me to buy this was a tour of Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany. I toured that site years ago to learn more of the history of what truly happened, and I found textbooks from which I was taught woefully failed to describe the reality. I purchased “Maus” in the bookstore located there, used to raise funds to preserve the site so future generations will remember the evil that happened.
I will never forget the horrors of what I saw. Because everyone cannot take such a tour, it makes works like “Maus” so important.
State Rep. John Waldron has worked with the Jewish Federation of Tulsa to file a bill (HB 3720) to ensure the Holocaust is taught in Oklahoma schools. A second bill (HB 3721) would create a select commission to advise schools on Holocaust education, help implement antisemitism awareness, and organizing a Jewish Holocaust remembrance event.
Discussions of the Holocaust, or the Tulsa Race Massacre, or many of humans’ failings with one another will make most anyone uncomfortable. Humanity has often stumbled, but the miracle is that we have always strived to be better. We cannot understand the miracle unless we stop the censorship or “canceling” of one another. Please have the tough conversations with your own kids, and elect people who will represent a balance of appropriate and necessary.