Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Censorship in Two Rivers?
First off, lets start with the obligatory disclaimer. This post is based on a rumor floating around our little community. I have not been able to confirm it, so of course there is considerable reasonable doubt. However, the rumor does help show a kind of quirky side to Two Rivers that anyone who has ever lived in a small rural community can certainly appreciate.
As in many small Alaskan communities, ours center around two locations - the post office and the laundromat. The post office is a lovely little contract station attached to Pleasant Valley Store, which offers a range of necessities, a good stock of treats, a decent little liquor store and fuel sales. Becky and Alex, proprietors of the store are HUGE supporters of the community and go to great lengths to keep their prices as reasonable as possible while keeping their enterprise alive and thriving. Since many of us receive our mail in post office boxes rather than risk theft, vandalism or just snow plow damage to roadside boxes, and everyone receives packages from time to time, nearly everyone in town shows up at the post office from time to time.
The laundromat is also a center of community traffic. It is located in the same building as an excellent hair saloon (Yeah, I know it should read "salon", but I like saloons more), Bob's Fix-It Shop (and he's GOOD at what he does), and sometimes other small businesses that kind of come and go. The popularity of the laundromat is based on a couple of factors. Many homes in Two Rivers do not have water wells, and those of us who do have wells understand fully and completely that water in Two Rivers is HARD water. I mean seriously hard enough to drive nails. Unless filtered and/or softened, it comes from the tap with a color ranging from pale amber to blaze orange. Doing your laundry in untreated Two Rivers well water is guaranteed to turn your whites to an uneven tie-dyed shade of yellow, orange or some combination of the two. The water at the laundromat is very well treated, so the risk of discolored clothing is much less.
For years and years, one of the big tables at the laundromat has served as a sort of community book exchange. This is also very common in Alaska communities. You read the book, drop it off at the laundromat and grab another. Some folks might read, leave and exchange several at a time, some might only come across an occasional intriguing title, and some avid readers might make exceptionally heavy use of it.
Now, Two Rivers is home to some pretty earthy characters, and I include myself in that group. It is also home to some pretty 'churchy' characters. We have a Church of the Nazarene mission and a Baptist Church that is described as a "independent, fundamental Baptist Church. Both are led by a fellow named "Pastor Bob", so when one is speaking of 'Pastor Bob' it can be helpful to specify if he is 'Baptist Pastor Bob' or 'Nazarene Pastor Bob', though most commonly I believe 'Pastor Bob' refers to Nazarene Pastor Bob.
In any event, both churches contribute a lot to our community, and I don't want to come across as too irreverent, though I must admit I have my moments. As with any group, the congregations of both churches include some really good people, and some who can be described, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, as jerks. That's just the way of the world. There are posers in all walks of life.
In recent months, those who frequent the laundromat have been reporting some pretty darned thin pickings at the book exchange table at the laundromat. About all that now lies on the table seem to be children's books and religious tracts. The rumor of the day is that one of the Pastor Bobs or perhaps a member of one or even members of both congregations, have made it a point to patrol the book table to ensure that no book or magazine which might not be 100-percent "acceptable" to their religious faith ever again sees the light of day.
Now, it could be that the people of Two Rivers have just stopped reading, but I think that's pretty unlikely. Most of us enjoy the benefits of a reasonable, plain education and we have some very brilliant highly educated (VERY highly educated) people in our community who are very well read. Previously the book exchange was very lively, and a vast array of topics and titles were represented. Therefore, even though it's only a rumor, the dirth of interesting titles is highly suspicious.
If the rumor is true I feel it represents a lack of respect for the beliefs and choices of others that I find outright despicable, and frankly I feel it serves to confirm the generally low opinion I already harbor toward organized Christian churches and their minions. On the other hand, it's also rather humorous. With the widespread availability of the Internet, excellent public libraries less than an hour away, and a lively exchange of reading materials between friends and neighbors throughout the community, it's an exercise in futility.
Nonetheless, it's eliminated a north-country tradition of exchange that used to reflect the true diversity of thought, taste and culture in Two Rivers, and that loss is lamentable. If the rumor is true it certainly would not be the first time that allegedly Good Christians have stolen those gifts of tradition and culture which, like faith, can also be described as a gift from God.