The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

The Clams Library System of Cape Cod—Freedom of Speech in Peril

This page stems from my failed attempts to get Sturgis Library and any of the other libraries in the Cape Cod system to express an iota of interest in subscribing to The American Dissident, despite its being published on Cape Cod. Famous novelist Kurt Vonnegut also lived in Barnstable, where I live, was actually a trustee at Sturgis back in the 60s, then quit, calling the library a “clapboard tomb.”


It is amazing how stubbornly tenacious so many public librarians can be regarding the exclusion, from their public turf, of DISSIDENT VOICES. In the case of the Clams Library System of Cape Cod, it is not a question of most librarians, but rather one of ALL the librarians. The following two Open Letters sent to those librarians and posted on The American Dissident blogsite prove the point. Out of the roughly 25 librarians contacted, only one librarian responded, Ginny Hewlett (Harwich Public Library), though not to the editor, but rather to the librarians contacted:

Just a friendly reminder to all that any emails sent from staff at a municipal library or that include staff at municipal libraries as recipients are public records and will need to be disclosed if a public records request is made to a municipal library.

Apparently, not one of the librarians was in the least moved by the following quote, which preceded my first Open Letter.

In almost all the 45 libraries studied here, and probably hundreds and hundreds more across the country, we have failed our professional duty to seek out diverse political views. [...] These books are not expensive. Their absence from our libraries makes a mockery of ALA’s vaunted ‘freedom to read.’ But we do not even notice that we are censoring our collections. Complacently, we watch our new automated systems stuff the shelves with Henry Kissinger’s memoirs.
—Charles Willett, Founding Editor, Counterpoise, and retired librarian [remarks presented at the Fifth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries]

Open Letter to the Public Librarians of Cape Cod

(Brenda Collins (Cape Cod Community College), Kathy Cockcroft (Brewster), Patrick Marshall (Bourne), Elizabeth Butler (Centerville), Irene Gillies (Chatham), Jennie Wiley (Cotuit),Nancy Symington (Dennis Memorial),Jessica Langlois (Dennis), Phil Inman (East Dennis), Cheryl Bryan (Eastham), Lisa Sherman (Edgartown), Leslie A. Morrissey (Falmouth), Ginny Hewitt (Harwich), Renee Voorhees (Marstons Mills), Kathleen Mahoney (Mashpee), Sondra Murphy (Oak Bluffs), Lee Ann Amend (Osterville), Cheryl Napsha (Provincetown), Lucy Loomis (Sturgis), Tricia Ford (Truro), Ann-Louise Harries (Hyannis), Amy Ryan (Vineyard Haven), Elaine McIlroy (Wellfleet), Kathleen Swetish (West Barnstable), Pamela Olson (West Falmouth), Shirley Barron (South Yarmouth), Anne Cifelli (Yarmouth Port), Mary Reuland (Snow Library):


Thanks to the Internet, this letter will form part of the public record, as it is now published on The American Dissident blog site ( If none of you respond, as is perhaps likely, that shall be noted. By the way, it took me about an hour to locate and compile your names and email addresses. In fact, a few of you do not even list your names and email addresses on your library’s website. Why not?

In any case, most of you, I’ve already contacted in vain, which is why I am writing this letter. A number of you have simply ignored my communications (e.g., Osterville, Falmouth, Brewster Ladies). Others simply greeted me with frowns, while a few actually banned my flyers on their public grounds (Sturgis and Yarmouth Port). In fact, the director of Sturgis Library even instructed me not to speak to staff with regards the banning and rejected a free subscription offer to The American Dissident, a 501c3 nonprofit journal devoted to literature, democracy, and dissidence, printed in Barnstable. And yet why should I even be offering a free subscription? Do Time, Poetry, People, and National Geographic do that?

Not one of you to date has been willing to subscribe (only $20/year) to the journal or express an unusual openness to the ideas expounded in it. The Clams network of libraries on Cape Cod has consequently conveyed a uniform closed-mindedness with its regard. Why? Is it because the journal’s substance is DEMOCRACY and CRITICISM, as opposed to the sex and violence you tend to purchase in the form of DVDs? Is it simply a panem et circenses issue?

What is therefore wrong with the libraries on Cape Cod? Why do they all seem to be staffed with chamber-of-commerce-friendly directors, instead of free-thinking citizens with a definite responsibility towards democracy? Why do you seem to fear and disdain criticism so much? Why do you seem so opposed to vigorous debate and freedom of speech, democracy’s cornerstones? On the one hand, you celebrate Banned Books Week while, on the other, you ban periodicals like The American Dissident. How do you manage to intellectually justify such egregious hypocrisy?

In the case of Sturgis Library, the collection development policy clearly stipulates: “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view […],” “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval […], and “Libraries should challenge censorship […].” With that regard, Sturgis subscribes to Poetry magazine, which presents the established-order point of view on what constitutes good poetry, but refuses to subscribe to The American Dissident, which clearly presents an anti-established-order viewpoint regarding poetry. One might wonder how the director intellectually justifies such an evident breach of the collection development policy. “This is a family-friendly place” and “I think there’s too much negativity” constitute her rationale. Yet such remarks clearly skirt the issue entirely and do not, by any means whatsoever, constitute a valid explanation. Besides, since when did democracy and dissidence become family un-friendly, while sex and violence family friendly? Perhaps librarians need to take courses on logical argumentation. By the way, the staff at Sturgis have been friendly and quite helpful. Clearly, this letter is not directed at them. As for the two trustees, Ellie Claus and Betsy Newell, with whom I met, they proved as closed-minded as the director. Dan Santos, the third trustee, didn’t even bother showing up for the meeting.

As you certainly must know, the above policy statements come directly from the American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights.” Interestingly, or rather aberrantly, the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (Ministry of Intellectual Freedom in Orwell’s 1984) simply refuses to respond to my grievance regarding Sturgis. Not a word from it! Not even a lame rationalization, as in “we’re family friendly.” Silence seems to have become, for far too many librarians, the librarian’s modus operandi, the de facto “Library Bill of Rights.” Librarians on the Cape, rather than individuals, seem to move as a groupthink librarian herd.

In any event, what good can it do the nation to have directors like you in charge of what the public may or may not read in its public libraries? What good can it possibly do for democracy? Why would not one of you likely accept a bulletin-board donation for a space devoted to DEMOCRACY? On top of such a board, one could write: WARNING: POSTINGS ON THIS BOARD MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO ADULT CHILDREN.
As a tax-paying citizen, should I not be fully outraged that my voice is banned at one of your public libraries? Should I not be outraged that bed & breakfast brochures, Prime Time, and other free publications are permitted, but not my 501c3 nonprofit flyers? Even dogs have been permitted to run around inside the library! If one or even two of you do not believe in the curiosity-killed-the-cat dictum (it’s so much easier to be indignant!), read the article published in Counterpoise for Social Responsibilities, Liberty, and Dissent, regarding my struggle vis-à-vis democracy-scorning public librarians exterior to the Cape ( Thank you for your hopeful attention.


The second Open Letter illustrates how, rather than fear and hate criticism, as most gatekeepers and others tend to do, I feed on it. Indeed, criticism constitutes the best grist for the mill of a dissident writer. Thus, the second letter was inspired by the only librarian who responded, though indirectly, very briefly, and not at all to any of my arguments, and also by one trustee who responded to my arguments, though only with ad hominem. Both responses, though integrated into the letter, appear in full at the end of the letter.


Open Letter to the Librarians of Cape Cod, Part II:

Liberals and conservatives seem to share one thing in common today: a clear DISDAIN for democracy’s cornerstones: FREEDOM OF SPEECH and VIGOROUS DEBATE. Dare criticize us and we shall scorn, ostracize, and dismiss you with invective has become the modus operandi of the day, left and right.


Why does criticism initiate such a knee-jerk hate reaction, when instead it ought to intiate thought? After all, without criticism, you might as well assume you’re doing a perfect job, so why bother trying to improve? Is it not aberrant that a public library like Sturgis would actually ban criticism on its premises? Evidently, you do not thinks so. Why not also ban criticism of politicians?


Sadly, your wall of purported perfection seems quite impervious to reason. Librarian Ginny Hewitt’s email, I suppose, was a welcome warning for you to make certain your muzzles are firmly attached. Refrain from discussing democracy openly because it will become part of the public record! And, well, that was all she had to say (or imply)—not even a thought on that most revealing quote written by a retired librarian and prefacing the previous open letter. Not even his wisdom and keen observations could penetrate your groupthink wall of “deaf ears.”


As for Dan Santos, who is not even a librarian, at least he did respond, though indirectly and in a rather unoriginal manner: shooting the messenger to avoid dealing with the message. Here’s a BLUF [Bottom Line Up Front, short and sweet] version of the message. Will it get through this time?


A. The library’s own policy stipulates “Libraries should challenge censorship […].”

B. Sturgis banned (censored!) my flyers.


A. The library’s own policy stipulates ““Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view”.

B. Sturgis banned The American Dissident “point of view”.


Now, if any of you can muster the courage, Dan Santos included, I’d be more than happy to meet and talk with you calmly and rationally about that “RANT” and its significance. After all, a discussion on the importance of DEMOCRACY and how fragile it’s becoming in AMERICA (and evidently on CAPE COD), thanks to liberal political correctness and conservative established-order self-preservation, could be quite interesting.


However, to dismiss interest and support for democracy’s cornerstones, as you have done either by silence or outright disdain, leads me to believe that such an encounter would not be in the least bit interesting to any of you. “No wonder his message is falling on deaf ears,” states Santos. Well, because your ears may be deaf does not necessarily mean that everyone else’s ears are also deaf.


As for Santos’ comment and evident confusion regarding my July 4thprotest, an explanation is clearly in order. First, it is not an easy thing to stand alone, as I did, knowing the possible hostility that would result. I didn’t want to go out. But I felt compelled to do so, not as “an exhibitionist engaging in intellectual masturbation,” but rather as a man of principles, someone who prefers choosing dignity over cowardice and fear of the herd. Besides, since when does a citizen who dares openly express his viewpoint in a democracy become an intellectual maturbator? Well, clearly, that occurs whenever his viewpoint differs from that of Santos and the herd.


When did any of you ever muster the courage to do such a thing? After all, the norm is simply to wear the muzzle and thus stifle ones human dignity. Again, it was far more than simple ego that pushed me to protest. Principle and passion for democracy were the driving forces. It was also an experiment of sorts in democracy. Would citizens understand my protest in favor of THE FIRST AMENDMENT and DEMOCRACY on the Fourth of July… or would they perceive my exercise of FREEDOM OF SPEECH as nothing more than a RUDE action? Alas, most of those present did not seem to understand the First Amendment at all and chose to perceive my action as nothing but gratuitous OFFENSIVENESS. Nevertheless, some people did congratulate me.


It seems probable that most people here on the Cape do not even understand that, as mentioned, VIGOROUS DEBATE and FREEDOM OF SPEECH constitute the very cornerstones of a thriving democracy. Santos evidently does not grasp that. In fact, perhaps most citizens (and librarians) on Cape Cod do not understand and, more importantly, DO NOT WANT TO UNDERSTAND.


For me, the Fourth of July should not be yet another day to celebrate COMMERCE or, to paraphrase Santos, for “exhibitionist[s] engaging in [COMMERCIAL] masturbation.” It should be a day to celebrate AMERICA’S INDEPENDENCE from AUTOCRATIC RULE, and its adoption of DEMOCRACY, and its cornerstones. The FIRST AMENDMENT is what differentiates America from every other country. In Europe and Canada, for example, speech is muzzled by relatively recent adopted “hate-speech legislation.” Obama, Hillary, and company are currently trying to adopt similar restrictions on the FIRST AMENDMENT. In Europe and Canada, one can actually be arrested and tried in a court of law for simply stating a fact. As incredible as that may seem to you, it happened to Geert Wilders, Elizabeth Sabbaditch-Wolff, Lars Hedegaardand others, who simply stated facts regarding Islam. OFFENDED Muslims complained. Wilders et al were then brought to trial! That’s all it took. But in America, speech that may OFFEND you or someone else is protected speech. In other words, it is not legal to arrest me for carrying a placard with a word or thought that OFFENDS you. Sadly, Santos and the rest of you don’t seem to understand that basic tenet of American freedom. How did the educational system fail you so miserable with its regard?


Again, the word FUCKING is clearly protected speech, which is why I use it here in its entirety, as opposed to truncating it into the rather childishly, hypocritical “F-word.”Citizens like you need to understand that. In fact, back in the 60s a man entered a courtroom with a shirt: FUCK THE DRAFT. He was arrested! But later the Supreme Court overturned that arrest based on the FIRST AMENDMENT. Why do so many people FEAR a simple, harmless word like FUCKING, a word that is spoken aloud in the many DVDs that Santos and all of you evidently approve for library purchase. How can you be such blatant hypocrites with that regard? Might your rationalization be that tender children don’t ever watch those movies? But is it the children who are tender or the adults? That’s the real question. BTW, I did not speak during my protest, unless spoken to. The word FUCKING was simply written on a placard: “CELEBRATE THE FIRST FUCKING AMENDMENT, NOT COMMERCE!”


It saddens me that instead of standing up for FREEDOM, you seem to get angered by or even mock freedom. The more citizens who behave as you do, the weaker our democracy shall become. It is quite possible that you do not even cherish democracy at all, preferring instead plutocracy, oligarchy, or what some call corporocracy (rule by corporations or commerce). In fact, it seems America is not really a democracy at all. Yet our very presidents hypocritically declare how they wish to promote democracy abroad. America is a PLUTOCRACY, where the wealthy have voice and the poor generally do not.


Thus the focus of THE AMERICAN DISSIDENT is DEMOCRACY. That the public librarians on Cape Cod would wish to keep such a locally-published journal completely out of the library system is indeed aberrant. Librarians today seem more apt to behave as autocratic gatekeepers, than proponents of “freedom to read.”


“If his publication has value than [sic] those with interest will find it,” states Santos. Well, “value” is immaterial to the argument concerning the collection development policy, which does not state“points of view” OF VALUE. Besides,“value” for you might not be “value” for me, and vice versa. “Value” is clearly a subjective term. Nevertheless, institutional subscribers that find “value” in The American Dissidentinclude Harvard University, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, Buffalo University, Brown University, University of Wisconsin, New York Public Library, Concord Free Public Library, Lincoln Public Library, Iowa Public Library, Newton Free Public Library, etc.


Finally, as I always tell my opponents, rather than call me names, show me the lie or irregularity in the logic, and I shall be quick to OPENLY admit fault. Why do you find it so difficult to openly admit fault? Hope to hear from a few more of you. Surely, there must be one of you who thinks out of the mold and can actually see truth in what I state here. Surely, Cape Cod cannot be this mentally backwater.



Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2012 10:10:32 -0500
Subject: Re: Criticism of Cape Cod Librarians

Just a friendly reminder to all that any emails sent from staff at a municipal library or that include staff at municipal libraries as recipients are public records and will need to be disclosed if a public records request is made to a municipal library.
Ginny [Hewlett]

Subject: Re: Criticism of Cape Cod Librarians
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2012 10:35:29 -0400
Dear recipients of Todd Sloan’s email.
Preface: I speak for myself and not as the representative of any organization.
Mr. Sloan is correct in that he is unlikely to get a response to his rant. If one must yell to be heard then the message likely carries little substance. Mr. Sloan wallows in bloviating (Thanks, Mr. Will) self-interest. If his publication has value than those with interest will find it. 
At last year’s Barnstable Village 4th of Julyparade and festivities, Mr. Sloan walked around the village as a human billboard, sporting the “F” word. Apparently being offensive is another tactic in his arsenal to garner attention to himself. He is no more than an exhibitionist engaging in intellectual masturbation. No wonder his message is falling on deaf ears.
Dan Santos