Thursday, September 30, 2010
So I asked myself this really hard question:
Is there ANY book I'd support banning?
Is there ANY legitimate argument for keeping a book away from readers so they don't even get a chance to decide on their own if it has any merit?
Parents can certainly talk with their kids about what they feel their kids are ready to read and what they want their kids to wait to read, but is there ever a moment when NO ONE should be allowed to read something?
If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a pretty liberal. But this question reminds me a bit of the ACLU defending the right of Neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois. I cringed when I heard about it, but I had to admire the ACLU sticking to the principle of free speech. And yet...
What about lies? There's a bunch of homophobic books out there that say that being gay is a choice and that religion can "fix" gay people - that's a lie. Being honest about being gay is the choice - our emotional and physical attraction is hard-wired. And the "fix" they offer is to deny the truth of being gay and go back to the closet. Those are books that I'd be very uncomfortable seeing in my local library's YA section. I think they're hurtful. And I'd probably read them and wish they'd never been written. But would I want them pulled from the collection?
What about hate speech? If a book was all about putting down a minority group and blaming them for everything wrong, I'd be horrified if my kid came home with it from the library.
What about incitement to violence? If a book was telling its readers that hurting others was the solution to anything, I'd want to keep that idea from spreading, wouldn't I?
Would banning any of those books actually keep those ideas from the world?
If the idea is to be able to filter the books our own kids read - to help them interpret and process the difficult stuff that might come up - shouldn't we be able to read Hitler's Mein Kampf and dissect the mutation of logic to genocide? Are we fetishizing ideas like violence is the answer if we restrict access to The Anarchist's Cookbook - should we not be able to discourse about ideas that we find horrible? And with a world that all too often turns to violence and hatred of the "other," shouldn't we be able to speak truth to lies?
From my liberal position, I struggle with this.
I struggle with the idea that these might be the only books that a kid besides mine might ever read about being Jewish, or being disempowered, or being gay. I know I'll help my kid navigate the world of books and ideas. But what about everyone else's kids? Might not those horrible ideas, those terrible solutions, and those damaging lies take root?
But it just might be the risk we must take as a culture - because if we start banning things that might offend someone - if we ban every book that might offend anyone - there will be no stop, until the only books left are pablum.
What do YOU think? Is there ANY instance where banning a book is the right thing to do?
ps- I found the locked book image here.