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Grand old American tradition of book-burning alive and well in the Tennessee state legislature.

Jonny Diamond

April 28, 2022, 9:28am

Tennessee state representative Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) said the quiet part loud yesterday. When asked what the state would do with books found to be “obscene” by the state textbook commission, Sexton proudly declared: “I don’t have a clue, but I would burn ’em.”

The journey to full-blown authoritarian theocracy is long and winding (until it’s rapid and terrifying) but I’d say this chilling public declaration by an elected official is worth some extra alarm. Pending legislation would require schools to send lists of questionable books to the state commission for review, presumably with oversight by the likes of Sexton, who seemed to have a particular problem with a novel by Jesse Andrews:

Republican lawmakers have consistently pointed toward a book, “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” as an example of obscene material found in elementary libraries. Sexton continued that mantra Wednesday, though he referred to it as “Me, Earl and the Girl Named Pearl,” saying it is “very sexual” and “pornographic” in nature. He also claimed lawmakers found obscene materials in school libraries in 93 of 95 counties.

The long game played by the American right over the last generation—consolidating legislative and judicial power at the local and state levels—is coming to its logical conclusion and Democrats (and more broadly, American liberals with a little too much faith in the country of their Sorkinesque dreams) have no idea what to do.

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