Lately, I’ve felt as if the United States has somehow slipped back in time a hundred years or so. It’s like our society has regressed in so many areas, but at the moment I want to look at the latest fad of banning and burning books.
Book burning and banning isn’t new. Ever since humanity learned how to print texts there have been people who feared the words on the page. The trend never dies out, despite the fact that burning books has never accomplished anything. The books survive, people continue to read them, and the world moves on.
The reasons for book burning and banning are usually focused on a couple of goals. First, to protect children from what some people consider salacious and insidious ideas. Second, to scare people into being afraid of these books, to make them think that reading them will somehow warp their minds or corrupt them.
There’s also a degree of power derived from influencing people to join the book hating club. The people who spearhead these campaigns usually have followers, or build up a group of them through their tirades against contrary ideas. Getting groups of people riled up and doing their bidding gives them a god complex.
I find it both sad and fascinating. Sad in that people take out their aggressions and fear of the unknown on books. I mean, it’s better than them taking it out on other people, but still, it’s unfortunate that simple words can invoke such fear in people’s hearts and minds.
At the same time, I also feel that words are powerful, they can make people think, feel, see things from a different perspective. Beneath all the fear-mongering and scare tactics, that’s what it comes down to.
The people who incite things like book burnings and banning them from libraries are afraid. They are afraid of change. They are afraid of things they don’t understand. They are afraid of anything outside of the status-quo. Fear turns to action, and the only thing they can strike out at are books.
When I read the articles about these exercises in censorship, I often wonder what the instigators hope to achieve. I mean, sure, they can get a book pulled from a local library or school, but in the modern world there are hundreds of places for someone to get a copy.
If anything, it’s bringing attention to the books in question. For example, a recent censorship campaign got a children’s book banned from an Ohio elementary school. It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn, which I’d never heard of, was banned because a parent saw a rainbow on the cover (it’s part of the title text) and assumed it was pro-LGBTQ.
The thing is, the book is about accepting who you are, about celebrating individuality and differences. What’s wrong with teaching kids that it’s okay to be shy, or autistic, or to have a scar, or to be in a wheelchair?
Despite the author clarifying the purpose of the book, it was still removed from the school and the author’s planned visit was cancelled. Because one parent over-reacted to a rainbow. Just another case of someone being afraid of something they don’t understand and don’t take the time learn more about.
The one thing about these situations that makes me laugh is that it brings free publicity to the books and their authors. That usually results in increased sales, so in the end these people can buy and burn all the books they want. Either way, the author wins.
Still, it’s a shame people can’t just, you know, not read the book if they don’t like the cover or the perceived content. Why try to stop others from reading it? I can’t get my head around that, and I probably never will.
If nothing else, it inspires me to write more, to share ideas, and to hopefully give my readers something to think about.