The Long Dark Self-Serve Buffet of the Soul

For the past six or seven years, I have felt incredibly off in all parts of my life. It seemed like no matter what I did, I failed. And many times I failed spectacularly. In front of audiences. In front of my team members. In front of people whom I respect. Or all by myself.

And then the pandemic came.

And then other very personal traumas occurred – some of them still ongoing.

Then I watch the US have an enormous misinformation crisis, and I’m like, “Where are the librarians at with master’s degrees in information science? Where’s the ALA?” And I felt like…I can’t even describe it. I still feel it. It’s not pleasant. It is deep. Something feels broken inside.

Then, being in the unique position that I am in public library-land, I heard from librarians across the US. There have been aggressive challenges here in Nebraska, but nothing like I was hearing about from these librarians. There have been bullying, methodical harassment, death threats, and great librarians forced out of their jobs because they either stood up for the First Amendment, and/or they stood up for marginalized community members.

If that’s not terrorizing, then I don’t know what is. And of this writing, I have yet to learn of someone who is outside of the Christian faith who has behaved this way towards librarians in the US.

I’m trying to work through this more or less on my own since I cannot afford therapy. I have dear friends and other sources of strength that have gotten me through my darkest, most broken of times, but they’re not professional therapists. I have a very long way to go to find my way back to both mental and physical health.

But I want to share some things that are helping me to rebuild my crumbling foundation. These are the biggest reasons that I’m writing this post:

  1. There is such a thing as self-gaslighting.

    I’ll let you google “can you gaslight yourself” like I did. And, if you were unaware of it like I was, then I hope that you’ll also gain insight into it. The traumas that I describe in the beginning of this post weren’t there to be all “oh woe is me.” They were there to say, “hey – we’re living in deeply traumatic times – and that can have some really awful repercussions such as self-gaslighting.”
  2. While larger organizations struggle to help the vast need, the local citizens of libraries have really stepped up and are defending their libraries. And I hope that this creates a stronger connection between those libraries and those whom they serve.
  3. There are indeed Christian terrorists in the US who do not value the separation of church and state, and who justify their hate-filled actions with unquestioning self-righteousness.

    This may seem like redundant statements about Christian terrorism, and they are, unless you were a few of the handful of readers who saw my “nasty verbal abuse” post where I questioned ever writing the Fighting for Good post. It was published on the internet, so it likely lives on somewhere, so I felt the need to reaffirm my initial statements because, well, self-gaslighting was part of that post.
  4. I do not mean that all Christians are terrorists.

    Yes, I had to go back and added a statement about this fact to the Fighting for Good post. But to those Christians who read it prior to that addendum, and who immediately cognitively flipped their lids, I hope that maybe they find their way to this post.

    For years I have said that schools are the brains of their community, places of worship the soul, and libraries the heart. I’ve never shared that here, and I felt it important to do so now since I still believe it.

    And most importantly, I want to end this post with the words/image from a Christian who took the time to email me about the situation in their community. And since this is a mostly librarian-read blog, I’ll let you know that I have permission to share.

I am writing to express my support of your efforts to spread a message of inclusion in your “Libraries are for Everyone” art. I am a member of the LGBTQ community and have been actively working through the Okefenokee Library Alliance to support LGBTQ inclusion in our local libraries in the Okefenokee Regional Library System. Our library installed your “Libraries are for Everyone” mural last year. Sadly, since the mural was installed, there have been many people who have sought the removal of the mural from the library based expressly on the mural’s LGBTQ representation.

I am a member of the Episcopal Church and attend Grace Episcopal Church in Waycross, Georgia. I presently serve as the Senior Warden of the church. The Okefenokee Library Alliance holds its meetings in the Parish Hall of Grace Episcopal Church. As a person of faith myself, it is very upsetting to me to witness the many unkind statements made against the LGBTQ community by other persons who also profess to be persons of faith who are actively calling for the removal of any symbols of LGBTQ inclusion at our libraries. Because my church believes God’s grace is for all people and our duty is to love all people, we have chosen to incorporate that message into our fall scarecrow display competition organized by our local chamber of commerce. In so doing, we hope to increase public support for your LAFE mural at our library.

The light you spread in the world will always overcome the darkness of others.


Ken Taft

Grace Episcopal Church

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