We’re often told that our posts on MPS are nasty, brutish, and short (all true, I might add!), but Scissorheads have a heart of gold and we enjoy a frisson of good news now and again when we are not busy taking aim with our spitballs.
This story, set in Fulton County Pennsylvania is one of those unambiguously happy stories where the good guys win over the bad guys:
Last week, library leaders — who’d seen a small county subsidy (just under 4% of its budget) slashed in half during the Great Recession — sent the Fulton County commissioners a request for an additional $3,000 in the new year, which would bring its total stipend back up to $15,000, or what it had been in the 2000s…
…But the two Republicans who wield majority power on the three-member panel said absolutely not, and — according to the account of the meeting in the local weekly, the Fulton County News — they were blunt in explaining why: The library had over the summer given an OK for a proposed new support group for Fulton County’s small, largely invisible LGBTQ-plus community to hold biweekly meetings in its public space.
We live in dark times, fascists are on the move and cretins like the GOP library commissioners are putting their boots on the necks of the local library because the librarians are not as hateful as the commissioners want.
…[GOP commissioner Randy Bunch] believes the LGBTQ community is a hate group.
“If we support them, we have to support Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter,” said Bunch, one of the 85.3% of Fulton County residents who voted for Trump in 2020, the highest percentage in Pennsylvania. The other Republican commissioner, Stuart Ulsh, agreed with Bunch and offered a seeming non-sequitur in defense of his position.
“Do we want Muslims moving into our county?” Ulsh asked, before citing an internet conspiracy theory — thoroughly debunked by Snopes.com — that a Muslim man had been arrested on U.S. soil with a 30-year blueprint for taking over America. After the vote to deny the library the extra $3,000, his colleague Bunch elaborated to Pittman: “I don’t hate anybody. I’m just saying that LGBTQ and any of those organizations make people upset. I personally think none of them need any part in Fulton County. I don’t dislike anybody; I just don’t want something that’s going to create friction between people.”
So you can see we have clearly drawn lines. And as a bit of color commentary, we also learn that GOP commissioner Randy Bunch has a” massive 8-foot-high portrait of Donald Trump on the wall of his construction company on McConnellsburg’s main drag.” So we really do have a cartoonish villain.
But we also have a local hero, who like all heroes has a great name: Emily Best –
The blowback started with a local activist Emily Best, who ran in 2018 as a Democrat for state senate when she led an organic farmers’ co-op in McConnellsburg, but recently moved to a neighboring county with her nearly-5-year-old son. Best told me she’d been appalled when she heard late last week about the political flap over the library, which had almost been a second home during the years she’d lived just a few doors away. She’d loved the collection of toys and puzzles that her son — who’d even held his 2nd-birthday party at the library — could play with, the quirky collection of books that included Mennonite romance novels. She said that it seemed a welcoming space in a community that can be distrustful of outsiders. Said Best: “I personally felt very safe in the library.”
So the lines are drawn! What happens next?
But Best had an idea for how to push back on the culture-war battlefield. She launched a GoFundMe page that hoped to raise $12,000 — or four times the denied request — for the Friends of the Fulton County Library, pleading, “Don’t let the hateful ideas coming from leadership be the only voices heard in Fulton County!”
Over the weekend, Best’s plea for support on Twitter circulated among a community of progressive activists, and it gained steam when a social-media heavyweight — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a 2022 Democratic candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat — adopted the cause. She also learned of a similar campaign that had been launched on Facebook as a response to the commissioners’ comments about the LGBTQ community. By Tuesday morning, Best’s GoFundMe page had raised $14,495 from 382 donors, while the Facebook drive has raised more than $9,000, or more than eight times the additional dollars sought from the county commission. That total is sure to rise as the controversy gets more publicity.
So while Republicans are banning books (and calling for books to be banned) and trying to defund the libraries, a small ray of light breaks through the gloom. The funds raised might not be much and times are tough, but the symbolism of small donors fighting back to save a library from Republicans cancelling LGBTQ citizens in a rural county in Pennsylvania cannot be missed.
We might be in dark times, with fascists and theocrats on the march, but there’s always hope. In ways large and small each and every one of us makes a difference, a buck here or there, a small act of generosity, just saying no to petty meanness, we prove to ourselves (and the world) that kindness is our superpower.