The answer here is simple. Because somebody, somewhere, is afraid of it. Because somebody, somewhere, is threatened by it. Because somebody, somewhere, wants you to be ignorant of it. It sounds aggressive when I describe it like that, doesn’t it? I hope so. One of my greatest fears is that I’ll be caught in a position that doesn’t afford me the option to learn and grow from an experience…and books are huge part of this.
Strangely enough though, for the first time, I’m taking a closer look at books that have been banned from schools and libraries in order to understand why exactly we would ever ban books.
What I am quickly finding is that the banned books are more often than not incredibly important and some were even required reading when I was in school. These were the books that provoked us and forced us to weigh in on ourselves morally…and somehow managed to become scapegoats for religious/political agendas. Of course this makes me want to read them even more. Go figure.
Having been a direct target of this kind of censorship, I have always reached instantly for those books that people find offensive so much that they burn them or ban them. What is in there that people fear so much that they would try to restrict and/or destroy it? Even with my proclivities, I don’t even find religious ideologies so repugnant that I would want them banned. I simply feel that it’s too important to have that knowledge available to us, with very little exception. I’ll argue this point even unto the science-fiction critics that complain about accuracy and pseudo-science. Imagination and experience are simply too important for us to narrow the scope of our available content.
I know where this argument takes us though, and I want to point out that I am certainly not saying we should have literature teaching people how to intentionally endanger or hurt one another, but books teaching us why people would want to do this would be incredibly important in my opinion. It seems to me that far too many people have taken it upon themselves to declare war on things they’ve only heard about, rather than relying on their own experience…something our government’s foreign and diplomatic policy could stand to consider as we continue to forcibly alienate more and more countries that are culturally incompatible with us. It’s not good enough that these cultures are oceans away, we must instead keep them so politically and personally hated that our perception of options isn’t to live and let live, but to suppress and eradicate. I simply find the situation strikingly similar to how people get themselves so stirred up over whether or not people have access to a book.
Is my allusion such a stretch?
I’ll try it on a different way. Despite a very crazy, abusive, and oppressive childhood…I managed to grow up into an extraordinarily moral individual. I owe so much of this to a list of books I couldn’t even begin to list out, but I will say this: many of them are on that banned book list. Some were actually required reading in school. I didn’t develop my values from reading only what I was told to…I learned from a whole world of philosophers and teachers, some religious and some not-so-much. I sometimes saw wisdom from despicable and evil people, and sometimes read how incredibly virtuous people could single-handedly sacrifice thousands in political posturing. The crazy, the scary, the imaginative…far too many of them incredibly insightful…restricted at libraries because someone ELSE didn’t like the contents. I learned a very strong sense of self, of right, of wrong, and how easily people deliberately convince themselves something morally horrible is acceptable in the name of a higher power that expressly forbids the act.
It pains me to think that maybe if people read more, they would have less time to convince themselves to act in such extremes, and have more time for the insight and inspiration that inevitably arrives from reading a good book…even one that might offend them.
Links to many of the banned books are below. Enjoy!