Michael Engel: Outraged by proposal from self-appointed guardians of the oppressed

Friday, January 03, 2014
To the editor:

I consider myself politically a person of the left. And I have always resented the phrase “political correctness” as it is thrown at us by those on the right to justify their racism.

But I have always been annoyed by the endless stream of initiatives to “ban this” and “ban that” coming from certain citizens of Amherst. It is made even more unpalatable by the smug, arrogant and self-righteous “progressive” rhetoric always accompanying those proposals.

The latest and perhaps the worst is the call to deport “Tintin,” that alleged agent of imperialism, to a corner of the local library where his adventures will not taint the innocent minds of children.

As a former owner of Cherry Picked Books in Easthampton, and having recently opened a children’s used bookstore in Ludlow, the alarm bells go off whenever I hear about censorship.

So I am outraged by this proposal from some self-appointed guardians of the oppressed, and especially because it comes from my own side of the political fence.

That they cravenly sugar-coat this as a “principled middle ground” and an attempt to promote “conversation” is nothing but hypocrisy. Censorship is censorship.

I have a couple of the “Tintin” books in stock; I also had them in my old bookstore. Would the “Amherst Thought Police” suggest that I now put them in a far corner with a sign saying “Imperialism is bad for your mental health?”

Or should I go all the way and burn them on the sidewalk outside — perhaps along with my “Babar the Elephant” books — as a symbol of my commitment to ending imperialism and racism?

I commend the board of the Jones Library for rejecting this suggestion, and standing up for what librarians have always courageously defended against those who would impose their politics on the rest of us: The right to freely choose what we read.

Michael Engel