today that seems to be ban from the market, banish from the culture and to be sure, burn in a bonfire – to be certain the offending book is gone – gone for good. This banning, banishing and burning of books does not happen in a free society. The fact that it is happening here, now, in this country, the United States of America, should concern everyone. Because today someone else’s books and ideas are banned. But tomorrow it could be your books and your ideas that are no longer welcome. When one person loses their voice we all lose our voices. I must defend those whose ideas I do not agree with, because they have the right, the freedom, to write and create whatever they want to produce.
I am free also. I don’t have to read a book or to buy a book if it offends me. Simple as that. I just don’t buy it or check it out of the library. Same with art. If I find it objectionable, I don’t have to look at it or purchase it. If something offends me on the TV or the radio, I can simply change the channel or turn it off. I don’t have to watch or to listen. I am free to choose what I read, listen to or watch. I am free to choose what products I purchase and what products I don’t.
But why do I need to have the things that offend me taken off the air or off the shelf in the bookstore or the library? Isn’t it enough that I am free to choose for myself? Why would I want to make those choices for other people about what they can or can’t read, or listen to or watch or purchase? I don’t want anyone else making those decisions for me so why would I want to make those decisions for other people? Even if I am in a position of leadership or of power, I don’t want that responsibility. Individuals need to be responsible for their own decisions and they must be free to make those decisions for themselves as they see fit.
Freedom believes in the individual person. Freedom believes people will choose well and do right by themselves and by each other if left to their own devices. Why? Because without intervention and rescue, they will experience the consequences of their choices and adjust those choices accordingly. We don’t need government making decisions for us that are ours to make for ourselves.
It has been said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Perspective is everything apparently. What one person finds offensive may not be so to other people. So by whose standards do we live? Who gets to dictate to the rest of us what books are available for us to choose from, for us to read or to purchase? Through whose “eye” will we be required to view the world in all its various aspects? Whose vision is deemed the “correct” vision?
Recently some Dr. Seuss books were labeled something – offensive, racist, problematic, unacceptable . . . by whom, I would ask? Who gets to dictate to the rest of us what we can and can’t read? Offensive to who and by what standard? Problematic is a convenient, catch-all label that could mean just about anything to anybody. It implies the book creates a problem, I guess. Questions at this point could be, “a problem for who?”, “what is the actual problem created by the book?” and “is a ‘problem’ a bad thing, a harmful, damaging or a fatal thing?” or is a problem just something to be solved as in a math problem or a puzzle? If a book is challenging or thought provoking or provides a new perspective is that to be feared and therefore eliminated so that people don’t have access to this book or to this information?
I thought diversity was the desirable goal in all things. Do we no longer want diversity in our libraries and in our bookstores? Why would we allow the elimination of diversity in our literature, which leads to the elimination of diversity of thought and ideas? Why would we not want diversity in the publishing world that brings to market all types of manuscripts? And why is someone (whoever is raising these objections?) evaluating books written in other eras by the standards of today rather than by the standards of the era in which they were written and published? Are they not able to understand and apply context? Do they not realize what books written in past time periods are? They are windows into a world we would altogether miss if not for the view these written accounts provide us. Books are windows with a view – a spectacular, personal, intimate, unique view into the world others lived in before we came to be here. Books are our invitation to share in that world and in the lives of people we otherwise would never meet, due to time or distance.
Books invite us to view the world through the eyes of someone else. The author makes available to us a perspective we could not experience on our own. However, we don’t have to accept the author’s invitation. That choice is ours alone to make. But why would I want to deny someone else the opportunity to accept that invitation, ie. to read that particular book even if I choose not to read it? It is at this point that I am wondering just who is denying me (and others) the right to read certain Dr. Seuss books if I so choose? If they (whoever “they” are) are offended by these books, they don’t have to read them or purchase them or have them in their home. But why are “they” allowed to make that choice for other people? Why are “they” allowed to make that choice for me? This is not what Freedom looks like.
Freedom’s face bestows her favor on one and all equally. She does not take kindly to anyone who would deny another person access to her many benefits and protections. Freedom protects our “unalienable human rights” which God gives us. (remember “endowed by their Creator”?) So I am wondering who are these anonymous, deeply offended individuals who are denying the rest of us our right to decide for ourselves what we read and don’t read? Are an anonymous but vocal few dictating to a silent majority what we can and can’t read? That used to be called censorship. Censorship has no place in a free society. Which then begs the question – are we a free society today?
Without a free press and with books being banned without debate or discussion, the face of something dark, ugly and oppressive.hoovers over our land, threatening to extinguish Freedom’s light. If one book can be banned (removed from libraries, stores or not allowed to be published) then any book can be banned because every book is bound to be offensive to someone, somewhere, at some point in time. (pun intended) Well, I guess without any books left to read, we won’t need Freedom’s light to read them by anyway.
Books may be banned but my thoughts are still my own to choose. I think I will follow Paul’s advice to the Philippians, when he said –
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
sincerely, Grace Day