September 30, 2015

Lessons in Censorship: Banned Books Week 2015

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Censorship implies that what one person thinks and believes is more important than what another thinks and believes. Newsflash: It's not.

I don't know about you, but I don't have the hubris to think that I know what is best for an entire population of people.  I also don't have the ignorance to think that just because someone reads a book I don't approve of said person will automatically buy into all of the messages (and don't forget made up messages given as reasons for censorship) that a book proffers or insinuates.

Wait a second.  You mean to tell me that you can read a book and not internalize the messages it contains?  And if someone does, not only is that okay, but it is none of your business if they do or don't?

I know.  It's shocking.  To think a person can read The Scarlet Letter and not suddenly be okay with adultery, or read a religious text and not automatically convert, or read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and not become a wizard/witch. I mean, I don't know who wouldn't want to go to Hogwarts, though. That's baffling.


You should have the freedom not to read Harry Potter and I should have the freedom TO read Harry Potter.  You should have the freedom to read whatever you want, I should have the freedom to read whatever I want.  It's as simple as that.  One of the basic tenets of freedom is that censorship should not exist.

Censorship is about fear.  When you want to ban a book, you are telling the world that the book scares you.  Just because you don't like something, you don't understand something, or you don't agree with something, it doesn't mean it is scary.  I have read books that completely counter my beliefs, and do you know what happened? I learned something.  Oooh! Terrifying. If you do read something that challenges you and you feel freaked out? That's called cognitive dissonance. I promise it won't kill you.

Even if you have no desire to read something that challenges your beliefs, there is no reason why your neighbor, friend, loved one, coworker, or complete stranger should not be allowed to read the book that you don't like/agree with/understand.  If your neighbor wants to read about Islam, that should be okay.  If your coworker wants to read about a bloody and violent description of war, that should be okay - that is what war is, you know.  If a teenager wants to read a story about a young girl who was raped because it helps her to empathize or helps her deal with her own assault or helps him understand why it is wrong, that should be okay. In fact, it could be a blessing in disguise.

So, in conclusion: 

1) Censorship implies that what one person thinks and believes is more important than what another person thinks and believes.  Try imagining someone banning books you love and believe are important.  How does that make you feel?  Does it make you want to shrug and give in?  Or does it make you feel oppressed?  Unimportant?  Stifled?

2) Freedom and the censorship of reading materials do not exist on the same side of the coin.  Censorship is the restriction of freedoms.

3) Censorship is about fear, misinformation, and ignorance.  It is more important we challenge these than it is the books.

4) Just because you don't like/agree with/understand something, it doesn't mean it is wrong and should be censored.

Here are some articles on banned/challenged books.  Read one today!

Top 10 Books Americans tried to ban last year

100 Most Frequently Challenged Books by Decade

List of Books Banned, by Government

Banned Books That Shaped America


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