Monday, September 28, 2009

I Don't Want To Read This, So You Can't Either!

Banned Books Week is in full swing.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend that was somewhat disturbing. (Finding Censorship Where There Is None.)

The article leads with a statement that censorship isn't much of a problem in the United States because censorship is defined as a government act. Alright, our government isn't stealing books off library shelves. Our government isn't hosting book burnings. Our government isn't going on TV and saying certain books shouldn't be allowed in our communities. It's private groups doing these things.

The article also argued about the use of the word 'ban' with the claim that a book is only banned if it's difficult for the average person to obtain and that since the invention of Amazon this is hard for anti-book groups to accomplish in America. Yes, it is true that as long as it is legal to have anything in print, we do have the option of buying whatever we want and having it mailed to us from more tolerant locations. If we have money. I don't think it's fair to say we shouldn't be worried or upset when literary materials are taken from libraries simply because we can always pay to order the book from somewhere else.

Furthering the issue taken with 'ban' the article points out that much of the discussion during Banned Books Week isn't about books that actually were banned anywhere in the US, but about books that were challenged. I'll grant the truth of this. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't be worried that there are so many people out there who think they have the right to dictate what's available to everyone else.

The article goes on to point out that most of the challenges have taken places in schools and claims, “What inflames the ALA, in other words, are attempts by parents to guide their children's education.” (Oh! Invoke our kids to get an emotional response from us! Classy!) It's the sort of statement that makes me wonder if the writer is deliberately missing the point. Petitioning a school to remove a book from its library doesn't merely impact the children of those complaining, it impacts all children at the school. And where is it going to end? You don't like Harry Potter because you think magic is evil? Okay. What if I wanted to ban the Little House books for being too preachy and Christian? You want to protect your child from the language of Cather in the Rye? Well, I want to shield mine from the sheer nastiness of The Scarlett Letter. Upset over the homosexuality in The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Moby Dick is about pursuing the brutal murder of a whale! Name a book and I'll think of something about it that's objectionable to somebody. If you're really so worried that your child is going to be ruined by reading Philip Pullman, maybe you should consider not allowing your kid to read his works. Personally, I'd be happy to lend my son my copy of the His Dark Materials trilogy.

If you want to read an excellent account from someone who strongly believes that book bans are alive and well, probably because some dimwits in Oklahoma decided to ban her books recently, check out Ellen Hopkins's account of her recent experiences.

I'm celebrating my freedom to read whatever I like by ordering several of Ellen Hopkins's books. What are you doing?

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