- August 2023
I've lived in the state of Washington for over 20 years, but I'd never heard of a town called Dayton. Now I can't forget it.
The Seattle Times reports the "one-stoplight farming community" in Washington's southeastern corner is home to the only library in Columbia County. Voters this November might shut that library down.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you why. But I'm going to.
About a year ago, parent Jessica Ruffcorn spotted a book called "What's the T?" on display in the young adult section. Ruffcorn and a few others objected to this teen guide on all things trans as being "not age appropriate." Then more offerings for children and young adults drew their ire, books on consent and race. They wanted them moved; the library director, then the library board, declined.
So Ruffcorn and friends started going to the monthly board meetings, which suddenly became better attended than the county fair. Ruffcorn accused the library director of being "a groomer," writing on Facebook that he "invites vulnerable children to the library as a safe space."
Ruffcorn changed her Facebook cover photo to these words: "Let men be masculine again. Let women be feminine again. Let kids be innocent again."
That's what they're dealing with in Dayton, a bully hot to inflict her gingham-and-ruffles worldview.
The library director resigned. His interim replacement moved all young adult nonfiction books to the adult section, but that didn't pacify Ruffcorn, whose hit list swelled to 165 books, all dealing with gender, sexuality or race.
Ruffcorn went full scorched earth, asking for the resignation of the library board chair and for the library to withdraw from the Washington and American Library associations. And she secured enough signatures to put the survival of the library on the ballot.
If voters side with her, the library in Dayton would be the first in the nation to close because of a brouhaha over which books are on the shelves. Not exactly a bragging point for the state of Washington.
Ruffcorn has opposition, and the Times story presents the women leading it. Deb Fortner is a fourth-generation wheat farmer who prefers to "live under a rock." But when even she heard about the library battle, she decided to download "What's the T?" and listened to it over two days as she drove her John Deere combine, reaping and threshing and winnowing.
"It was a lovely book," said Fortner. "There is nothing offensive in that book."
People like Ruffcorn make it easy to dismiss rural Washingtonians as rubes. I know better, but I needed Fortner to remind me. May Fortner and her allies reap what they sow in November.
And may Ruffcorn get plowed under.
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