things i heard at the library: an occasional series: # 2

Girl, whispering so quietly I could barely hear her: Excuse me. Um, do you work here? Um... um... do you know where I can find books about diaries of wimpy kids?

Ten minutes later, a boy: Do you have Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

Not five minutes after that, another boy: Do you have any Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?

Within 15 minutes, five kids asked me about Diary of a Wimpy Kid. They had all just seen the movie, although I'm not sure where. The Mississauga Central Library shows free movies every Thursday night, but that wasn't it. Maybe in school? Anyway, there was a huge run on Wimpy Kid. Several kids were re-directed to Dork Diaries.

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Here's something I saw at the library. Shelving books about Machu Picchu, I stumbled on a title about MRTA, also known as Shining Path. Surprised, I looked through it and discovered it was part of a series called "Inside The World's Most Infamous Terrorist Organizations", put out by Rosen Publishing. I wrote a few titles for Rosen many years back, so the name jumped out at me.

The list of "most infamous terrorist organizations" included Al-Queda (of course), Hamas, Hezbollah, the IRA, MRTA, the ETA, and a few others. It did not, however, include the governments of the United States and Israel.

I found the concept of the series very disturbing. To the publisher's credit, the book did give a political context, explaining in simple terms some of the issues that gave rise to the group. The conclusion raised the idea that certain reforms might not have happened if the group had not focused attention on the issues. It didn't look like the organization was portrayed as a bunch of insane, bloodthirsty monsters, and it did refer to violence from other sources.

But... terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. A political group may use many means to attempt to achieve its goals. Violence may be one of them. Does that make it a terrorist organization? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

How about an organization that goes into a residential area, uses explosives to blow the door off a home, holds a family at gunpoint, ransacks the home, abducts any male in the home over a certain height, cuffs the man or boy's hands behind his back, puts a hood over his head, and takes the man or boy away, never to be heard from again? And this organization does this night after night, home after home.

This organization forces residents to pass through a series of checkpoints as they go about their daily lives. It declares curfews and lock-downs, then shoots on sight anyone who defies or misinterprets their orders, which are issued in a language the residents do not understand.

This organization uses chemical weapons against this civilian population, weapons declared illegal by all international bodies. It bombs towns and cities so that its own members may encounter less resistance when they loot, pillage, and abduct.

This organization detains hundreds, thousands of people and subjects them to the most heinous of tortures.

Is this a terrorist organization? Or just the government of the country in which these books are published?

Naturally, I am quite aware that no American or Canadian publisher would put out a book for young readers detailing the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the United States government. I am merely noting the early political indoctrination of all young people, and the points of view that many of us have unlearned.

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I saw another book with a tragic omission. In a series about cities, a book about Boston said that the Red Sox had not won a championship since 1918! Get that book off the shelf!

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