We’ve entered a time wholly unprecedented in U.S. history. The current populist movement is openly hostile to intellectual pursuit. Education, libraries, and media are all under attack as either serving no purpose, or worse, surving a purpose that is at odds with this New Populism.
Neil Gaiman has written (and spoken) extensively about the impact that reading and libraries have on his life. He is quoted as saying,
When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world, and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.
Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.
Combine this observation by Gaiman with the following article from the Washington Post entitled Donald Trump doesn’t read much. Being president probably wouldn’t change that. This article makes it clear that what little reading is done by our new President is usually in the form of magazines that feature his own image on the cover.
Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.
Trump has been accused of being a narcissist and, while not being exactly the opposite of empathetic it’s certainly close.
When reading is demonstrably unimportant to our leaders, we can be certain that the funding will be under attack. Put on your walking boots. Protest may be our only remaining recourse for saving books, learning, and libraries.