The Forum needs a resident proctologist

Ed Raymond

So, it has come to pass that Scott Hennen and Ross Nelson have assaulted librarians in the state, accusing them of putting porn on the library shelves and in the arms and backpacks of innocent big and little children.  

At 91 I have been disgusted a few times in my life, but those two columns rank with the rankest I have experienced. Having been a compulsive reader for much of my life and a teacher and administrator at the K-12 and college level for 37 years, I have worked with dozens of librarians in my private and professional lives — including this morning, working on my 1,501st column for regional newspapers.  

People become librarians because they love books and love to tell people about them. I have never run across a lousy librarian. Perhaps Scott and Ross would return to sanity about librarians if they listened to the musical The Music Man where the con man “Professor” falls in love with Marian the librarian and is converted to the good life:   

“But when I try in here to tell you, dear, I love you madly, madly madam librarian, Marian, It’s a long lost ‘cause I can never win, for the civilized world accepts an unforgivable sin Any talking out loud with any librarian such as Marian, madam librarian.”  

Here are just a few things Ross and Scott have written about some of my favorite people:  

• “Librarians should join good-faith effort to keep porn from kids in libraries.” (Whose good faith effort? Republican legislators who haven’t checked out books for years?)  

• “North Dakota’s woke librarians have checked out.” (By the way, Ross, “woke” means they are awake to what’s happening. The legislation to ban porn and books is all about culture-war politics and winning the next election, not protecting children.)  

• “A bill has a simple mission: Protect youth from pornography.” (What is pornography, Scott? Is it what you see or what competent and trustworthy librarians see? I’ll go with the librarians. To prevent nine-year-olds who go through puberty from having babies, let’s have appropriate sex education when they need it. You seem to know as much as Ron DeSantis knows about sex. He’s trying to pass a bill limiting discussions about periods to girls in fifth grade and beyond. Some third graders have periods.  

• “The book Let’s Talk About it contains…that gender is whatever we think it is – never mind if the genetic makeup in every cell of the body says otherwise.” (Ross, you need a little work in the science of genetics. The brain between your ears eventually determines sex, not the testicles or the vagina between your legs.)  

• “I am appalled that librarians are fighting this bill. Is it asking too much to protect children in our libraries?”  (Scott, we don’t need ignorant politicians or talk show hosts determining what materials and books are in libraries. We already have competent, children-loving people making intelligent choices. Remember: Those who ban books will eventually burn them in the streets – and then burn people in those streets  

Why do men dominate assholery?     

After Donald Trump had used thousands of lies to call minorities rapists and slackers, 27 psychiatrists and psychologists analyzed millions of his ignorant words in speeches and Twitter to diagnose him as a malignant narcissist. Many people had to go to the Manual of Mental Disabilities to determine what he really was besides being a psychopath. If the experts had just labelled him an “asshole,” everyone would have known what they needed to know.  

This is what University of California Philosophy Professor Aaron James writes in his book Assholes: A Theory, despite its title, is a serious look at people who make a society miserable, angry and polarized.   James writes: “If we were to use a more formal or non-slang term instead, as in ‘what a bad person,’ the full richness and specificity of meaning that the colloquial, richly nuanced term ‘assholes’ possesses wouldn’t be fully expressed. Everyone possesses a personal meaning for assholes we know, and that comes awfully close to what James thinks.

He writes: “Exploring the concepts contained in the term ‘asshole’ raises  important questions  about respect for one’s self and others, of human dignity, of exploitation of how you should act and not act in a cooperative society, what we can rightfully expect of others and why their failure to live up to this is so objectionable, and much more, in short, this term is thick with moral and political implications.”  

Assholery is basically a male attribute, probably because of testosterone which continues to cause trouble even in old age. James says the hormone in all likelihood makes males more susceptible to asshole influences, or more likely to possess aggressive traits.  

Is this why very few women are assholes? Do you know a woman who systematically grants herself special privileges over others, feels entitled to things regardless of circumstance and rejects the just complaints of others? I don’t think I want to go there!  

However, I do want to raise Scott and Ross from the nincompoop class to the asshole class because of their attitudes toward librarians, mostly female.  

I think it’s fascinating that one Democratic senator in the unicameral Nebraska Legislature has kept the entire body from passing a single bill for three weeks so far. Machaela Cavanaugh is filibustering a bill that would restrict gender-affirming treatment and care for transgenders that many states have passed or will try to pass. It takes 33 votes to break a filibuster in Nebraska, and so far her opposition has not been able to come up with the votes.  

I imagine that some Trumplicans in exasperation have called her an asshole in private, but she is a hero to thousands of Nebraska transgenders.  

James has the answer to why we lead the world in economic inequality    

James figures that capitalism will always have jerky stops and starts because assholes think they are the rightful recipients of the best of everything. Think Bezos and Musk. Bezos around the world. His mansion in Washington, D.C. has 27 bathrooms after he supervised remodeling two adjoining mansions into one. If you want a good laugh, read the history of why he had to move his $500 million 417 ft. superyacht from one shipyard to another. And then read why he had to build another $400 million yacht for his wife so she could fly her helicopter to her yacht so she could take a boat to his superyacht. It’s enough to make you cry – and puke.    

Depending upon what day it is, Musk is occasionally the richest man in the world who doesn’t pay a dollar in federal taxes. These two billionaires are examples of assholes who exploit other people’s willingness to be fair and to reward others. Both are well-known for being violently anti-union, sometimes closing facilities where workers will vote for a union.  

Warren Buffett of Omaha fame sometimes ranks third in the billionaire race, but he still is in  the same house he lived in when he was only a millionaire. He doesn’t drive through red lights or rev up his motor at crosswalks as assholes do. Warren might not even be in the nincompoop class because he seems to believe that laborers and other workers have helped him achieve wealth beyond belief.    

James does not forget our biggest and wealthiest corporations in his discussion about who are assholes in the business world. These companies, many that generate mass pollution in the world that dramatically cuts life expectancy of Planet Earth and inhabitants, are led by CEOs who easily qualify as assholes. They lie, cheat and steal.   In the Forbes Global 2000 rankings of the largest corporations in the world, ExxonMobil ranks 15th and Shell 16th, the two largest oil polluters on the planet. They both pretend to be working hard on renewable energy, but behind the scenes they support PACs that lobby Congress for exploratory drilling rights on federal land – to develop more oil fields.     

The banking and investment firms that deal with other people’s money in the financial markets have more than their share of assholes. The CEOs risk bringing down entire economies to make a personal buck through stock buybacks. In the recent bank failures in Silicon Valley and New York, some CEOs and managers dumped stock just before the runs to make a fast buck.  

According to James, they concentrated on their own rewards instead of being concerned about their customers. James writes: “Money and markets cannot operate without trust….But if entitled self-obsessed, rapacious assholes proliferate beyond a certain proportion all bets are off. The Russian oligarch system is rightly considered a full asshole capitalistic system.  

Student debt: Another pandemic disaster run by assholes    

While 18 countries in the European Union have offered free college to citizens for decades, the Divided States of America, the richest country in the world, expects students to pay for their education by assuming debt that will “bankrupt” and harass them during their productive lives.    

To name a few countries that provide free college: Estonia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany Greece, Slovenia, Spain, Poland – need I go on?   Who should get the albatross-around-the-neck for this disaster? It’s that great budget balancer Ronald Reagan who took this position while running for California governor in 1970: “Free college will produce the dangerously explosive dynamite of an educated proletariat, so we have to be selective on who we allow to go through higher education.”    

So, for 50 years a system that made students and families fund higher education instead of state legislatures has created a mess where 45 million Americans owe $1.7 trillion in student debt. Many are elderly.    

We now have millions of examples of why the student debt program is an insanity perpetrated by Congressional assholes for more than 50 years. The leading example is Betty Ann, who at age 55 borrowed $29,000 to go to New York University’s law school, becoming one of the first Black women to attend. Things just didn’t go her way, so 35 years after graduating she owed $329,309.69 at age 91. Remember: bankruptcy is not an option for student debt borrowers.  

In 1977, C. W. Hamilton borrowed $5,250 to finish a two-year associate’s degree at Cochise College in Arizona. Now a 72-year-old veteran living in Reno, he joins 47,000 other debtors who have been repaying their loans for at least 40 years. He still owes about as much as he borrowed!    

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman sums up this mess: “U.S. politics is increasingly polarized along educational lines, with the highly educated supporting Democrats and the less educated supporting Republicans…..Republicans have managed to alienate educated voters who might benefit from tax cuts. The Republican party’s growing hostility to education is surely part of the answer. In any case, one sad thing is that this turn against education is taking place precisely at a time when highly educated workers are becoming ever more crucial to the economy.”  

Assholes today, preoccupied with their own destinies, will not solve the student debt fiasco. Stuff happens. Even Donald Trump has lost his world-leading top asshole-of-the-universe ranking to Vladimir Putin. What a loser!