October 1st, 2009

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Book-bannings, brain-burnings

The notion that a book is inherently so bad that it should be banned started a long time ago (check out Plato's view of bad stories)  but to find the idea of book banning alive and well in a country that has long prided itself on allowing individual freedom is shocking.

And yet...over and over school and public librarians find themselves being asked to take certain books off the shelves.   Furious parents speak up at school board meetings, demanding that their children not have access to any book that disagrees with the parents' belief.  

Book banning--and book burning--is an attempt to control minds.   The people who favor banning books don't want anyone to learn or think about or know anything that they themselves don't want known or thought about.   They want to be mental tyrants.  They would, if they could, gag anyone who said something they didn't agree with. 

Are some books trash?  Yes.   Are some books factually wrong?  Yes.   But is that a reason to ban them?  No.  Nor is revealing truths others would rather have concealed a reason to ban them.  Nor is expressing a different opinion than the would-be book-banners a reason to ban them.  

You don't have to read a book with which you disagree.   But if you never read a book with which you disagree--read it thoughtfully, carefully, being sure you understand what is being said and what the evidence is--checking your own biases, in other words--you will remain an ignorant, bigoted person.  You may be an ignorant, bigoted fascist, an ignorant, bigoted socialist, an ignorant, bigoted Democrats, an ignorant, bigoted Republican, an ignorant, bigoted member of any religion or an ignorant, bigoted atheist...but as long as you insist on having your pet notions pampered and praised so that you can pride yourself on not having contaminated your feeble brain with anyone else's knowledge or opinions...ignorant and bigoted you will remain.  

Banning books is wrong.  Refusing to listen to the other guy is wrong.  It is undemocratic. It is against the ideals on which this nation was founded.  We have freedom of the press written into the Constitution so that you can be jostled and abraded and educated by people with whom you didn't (yesterday) agree--so that you can test your knowledge and your biases and become, thereby, a better citizen. 

Be brave.  Read a book you don't like and instead of screaming for it to be banned...actually deeply think about it.