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Introduction: Extraordinary service, extraordinary love

By Scott Shoger



The International Board on Books for Young People’s “Call-to-Action for Refugee Children” has me thinking of how, to borrow from Elvis Costello, history repeats the old conceits. I spoke with three IBBY reps behind that call-to-action – which calls for renewed efforts to help children in crisis – during the heart of the U.S. presidential campaign. [1] The results are published as one of the four special features that make up this issue of World Libraries, the first under my editorship.

Bedraggled followers of that campaign will remember one of Republican nominee Donald Trump’s favored symbols: the “great Trojan horse,” filled with “tens of thousands” of Syrian refugees, parked outside the gate of Fortress America, ready to roll in under the permissive watch of Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton – no Cassandra, her. [2] And if Clinton gamely rejoined Trump’s conspiratorial ravings with a more level-headed, if not exactly full-throated, endorsements of refugee resettlement – “I am not going to slam the door on women and children,” she put it during the third debate –the nativism embodied and emboldened by Trump won’t be so easily put to rest. And Trump’s not the only one playing that same tired old tune, night after night, rally after rally. [3]

Look to UK columnist Katie Hopkins, who described migrants as “cockroaches” capable of surviving a nuclear bomb in The Sun. [4] Or Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who predicts a “Muslim invasion” that will leave “young men with beards singing ‘Allahu Akbar’ across Europe.” [5] And let us not forget The Wall, or rather, Walls: from the one Trump says Mexico will pay for on the border with U.S., to the Great Wall of Calais, which the U.K. is actually paying for on behalf of France, to all other barriers turning back those in search of refuge and respite.

There’s nothing new about such bigotry – Trump seems to be summoning up these primeval archetypes from our collective unconscious, stirring up Nietzsche’s ressentiment, that “whole tremulous realm of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible and insatiable in outbursts.” [6] But the mainstreaming of such discourse – juxtaposed against scenes of unspeakable tragedy from Lampedusa to Aleppo – is extraordinarily concerning. And it’s incumbent on those fighting the good fight for social justice across the information spectrum to respond to these extraordinary threats with extraordinary advocacy, extraordinary service, extraordinary love.

This issue of World Libraries features a few of those extraordinary responses, essayed by extraordinary people. We hear from Jane Yolen, the “Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century,” whose 2014 Butler Lecture, published for the first time here, eschews the simplistic formulation of “fakelore” in exploring how stories migrate and mutate across centuries and cultures. And Marianna Tax Choldin, aka Madame Censorship, aka the founding director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, discusses her new memoir on Russian and Soviet censorship, advocating for not only free speech but also its flipside: active listening.

We also receive dispatches from Cate Carlyle and her International Librarians Network cohorts, dedicated to a peer mentorship model that scraps hierarchy and values the contributions of librarians of any age, from anywhere. And four IFLA veterans emphasize that much work remains to be done on the Treaty of Marrakesh to make it truly work on behalf of visually impaired patrons. Thanks for your precious time and brainwaves, and please direct any and all comments, contributions and criticism to sshoger@dom.edu and/or the authors themselves.

Endnotes

[1] "IBBY's Call-to-Action," International Board on Books for Young People," August 21, 2016, http://www.ibby.org/fileadmin/user_upload/IBBY%E2%80%99S_CALL__Auckland_2016.pdf.

[2] Chance Seales, “Trump: Obama welcoming pro-ISIS refugees could be ‘all-time great Trojan horse,'” WNCN.com, June 13, 2016, http://wncn.com/2016/06/13/trump-obama-welcoming-pro-isis-refugees-could-be-all-time-great-trojan-horse/.
 
[3] Alexander Burns and Matt Flegenheimer, “Presidential Debate: What You Missed,” The New York Times, October 19, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/us/politics/presidential-debate.html?_r=0.

[4] Katie Hopkins, “Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants,” The Sun, April 17, 2015, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1541491/rescue-boats-id-use-gunships-to-stop-migrants/.

[5] Yoruk Bahceli, “Wilders tells Dutch parliament refugee crisis is ‘Islamic invasion,’” Reuters, September 10, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-netherlands-idUSKCN0RA0WY20150910.

[6] Friedrich Neitzsche, On the Geneaology of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1989), 124.


Copyright (c) 2016 Scott Shoger
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