Should we even have banned books?
Opinion: You may not have noticed, but this week, September 27 through October 3, is “Banned Books” week. The week is designated to celebrate our freedom to read. It is promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International. You may think of “Banned Books” as being a problem for other nations since we have the freedom of the press here in the United States, but banned books have a long and fruitful history here in the states too. In fact, in some sense, the battle over banned books is an on-going battle. It happens each time a group of people, or an individual, becomes offended by a document, usually a book, in some way or another.
Let’s consider some potentially banned books. After all, if you strolled into your local library and found titles glaring out at you such as Mein Kampf, The Satanic Bible, or How to be Gay what would your response be? Overwhelming, most people would respond they do not want their children and others exposed to “that kind of literature.” It may surprise you though to find, that of those three titles, How to be Gay, falls into the category of the books most people banning books in the United States would like to see banned. In fact, LGBTQ books are some of the most banned books worldwide, and the least accepted books in many societies. Regardless of how you feel about the other titles, or LGBTQ books, that is simply the facts.
There are other titles that people want to be banned, and in some cases do get them banned such as Tom Sawyer, Harry Potter, The Handmaid’s Tale, and others. Some you may agree with due to terminology frowned upon by our society today, or magic and wizards which may go against Christian views, and indeed, sexual content is questioned by many people.
The funny thing about “Banned Books” is that while a book you may disagree with can be banned by your group today, tomorrow a book you may love could be banned. Several books for example accepted as school reading in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, are frowned upon today for various reasons. Do you realize the Holy Bible has been banned in the past and is banned in some countries today? How would you feel if Stephen King, Steve Martin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, or John Grisham’s books were to be banned tomorrow? Would you accept it and go on about life? Not likely. Most of us, if our favorite authors were banned, would be in an uproar, furious, unwilling to accept it. But then, if the ban is for a book such as Mein Kampf we would almost unanimously support banning a book from one of the most horrendous public figures of the last century.
If we are going to be fair, then as a free nation with a free press, we should have no banned books. If we ban one religious book today, then tomorrow the tide may, and most certainly will change, and the ban will extend to a book we accept. Our safest avenue is to exercise another freedom we have in this country…choice. If we as individuals do not wish to read a certain book, then we should not read it. We should keep our children from reading it until such time as those children become adults and make their own choices. If we allow this acceptance, and a book is truly banned by the public, then it will be banned by the lack of sales, the lack of use, the lack of readership. Its spine never bend to a reader’s touch, a digital copy will never pass out into a reader, and a paperback edition will never arrive. The answer has always been simple…your choice decides what YOU ban for yourself, but in a free country with a free press, then you must allow others to make their choices as well.