"First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Social Democrats, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Social Democrat. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew, Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me." - Pastor Martin Neimoller
I know this book is about the Holocaust, but there are two points I want to make by quoting it. The first is that when we talk about banning books we don't feel are appropriate, we forget about the slippery slope. The questions are, where do we draw the line and whom do we trust to pick the books to ban? There are books I don't want my 12 year old reading although I would have read them myself at 12. But I defend his right to pick up anything he can find in a public library or bookstore and reading it when my back is turned. If something disturbs him, he can come to me and talk about it. My second, less important point, is that the Nazis didn't just burn people, they also burned books.
A couple of years ago, I was at my son's school during parent teacher conferences. The parent in line ahead of me was asking the teacher to censor a book her daughter was going to read in class. She had highlighted passages she feared would disturb her daughter and suggested that the teacher paste over the lines some lines of her own creation that were safer. I was truly stunned. My son wasn't in the class reading that book but I told the teacher that I absolutely would have insisted that my son be given the unedited version of the book. Unfortunately the teacher was young and new to the school and didn't seem to have the strength to stand up to this mother. I feel sorry for her daughter. Imagine living a censored life!
Banned books are a funny thing. A fellow blogger wrote about kids passing around the list of books banned by the Catholic school nuns and reading more of them than of the ones on the approved list. When I tried to look up a list of banned books just now, I was reminded of trying to read Lady Chatterly's Lover as a kid because I had heard of its sexual content. At the time, I found it a huge disappointment. Apparently what was considered prurient by the previous generation, didn't mean much to a 70's preteen. My mother had far more lurid books on her shelves than Chatterly and I can tell you I read them all. As far as I can tell, none did me any harm. I noticed that one of the books I read back then is still on the often banned list today.
The kind of content that is "controversial" nowadays seems to fall into a few themes:
sexuality (duh), homosexuality, profanity (as if every 5 year old in this country doesn't speak fluent four letter words), death (I guess our kids won't learn about suicide until it happens to a kid in their high school or to someone in their family), rape and molestation (ditto), anything not Christian, anything leftist in leaning, anything containing the "N" word--sorry Mark Twain, and books about magic and the occult (begone foul Harry Potter).
Well, I need to get to work and then out scouring the bookshelves for a few banned books to read. I hope I inspire you to read one or two yourselves.