Here’s a neat trick to try sometime. The next time you want to expose massive amounts of people to a certain idea, just tell them they can’t handle it and try to have that idea banned.
That’s what happens every time some person or group tries to ban a book. Recently, the Borger Independent School District pulled Carolyn Mackler’s “Tangled” from the shelves of its middle school library. Now guess what book all the kids want to read.
Books don’t exactly assert themselves on us unexpectedly (one of the drawbacks of being an inanimate object). A book can sit quietly on a shelf for years, gathering dust and being ignored. Until someone finds it, disagrees with it and then tries to ban it for the rest of us. Then suddenly it’s a big deal and everyone wants to know what’s so dangerous that they shouldn’t be allowed to read it.
In some cases the Earth-shattering threat to human decency and society in general is just two male penguins teaming up to raise a baby penguin. That book, called “And Tango Makes Three”, was the number one most challenged book in four of the last five years. Apparently some large group of homophobes wants very badly to impose their standards on other people’s children.
Do these book-banners think the penguins are going to make their sons grow up and marry a man? Did anyone ever try to ban that “Three Men and a Baby” movie? Another book that is frequently challenged is “The Catcher in the Rye”. Some parents must think that this is the only thing exposing their children to teenage angst and the F-word.
Yes, some books are just plain inappropriate for certain age-groups. Madonna’s “Sex” probably shouldn’t be in a grade-school library. But some of these books actually get banned from public libraries. And too many of them are banned because of the ideas they express.
When we let a book be banned we are giving power to a person or group whose worldview is so fragile that they think any exposure to an opposing idea will crush their belief-system.
Banning books promotes the idea that any belief different from our own is dangerous to society. That trying to understand another’s viewpoint is bad. That anyone with a different opinion should be silenced, banned and locked up. In fact, it’s exposure to new ideas that makes us stronger, smarter and more well-rounded individuals.
Originally published: Wednesday, October 5, 2011