I tend to shy away from politically-themed content. However, there’s a growing trend here in the U.S. where book banning and censorship of artistic self-expression is becoming the norm. Every day I read about another book title or another author’s works being pulled from library shelves. And it’s not just school libraries. Public libraries are also under assault.
What concerns me – in addition to the First Amendment violations – is where this is leading. First, it’s books. Next, movies. Then music. Then paintings. Then sculpture. At some point all the museums will be empty, all the library shelves and television and movie theaters will only show blank screens.
I’ve written about book censorship and banning previously, but mostly the usual one-off situations where some parent or a local organization gets outraged about a specific title and ties (and occasionally succeeds) to get it pulled from shelves. Lately, however, the censorship is coming from state and local governments. Laws are being passed with vague wording that allows for broad generalizations of what may be considered offensive. Weaponized censorship.
And as I’ve noted in those previous posts, fear-mongering is at the heart of it. It’s easy to manipulate people with fear. It’s “fear of the other” that drives many of our prejudices. From what I see, that’s how some groups bond – it’s over a shared fear and hatred, a common enemy.
One of the things I struggle to understand is the excuse that it’s all to protect children. From what? Ideas? Other walks of life? Other cultures? Learning how to think for themselves?
Unfortunately, it’s not just books that are the focus of fear. Recently, a private school in Tallahassee, Florida, caused an uproar when a school principal was fired when it was discovered the students saw a photo of the statue of David, by Michelangelo. Some parents were outraged at the nudity, some equating it to pornography. Oddly, they were apparently okay with the students seeing the painting, The Creation of Adam, which also depicts nudity.
I haven’t been able to decide if this escalation of censorship and fear is the result of politics – politicians trying to stir up their party members for attention – or if it’s simply about control. Regardless, it’s not crazy to think that, someday in the not-too-distant future, books and works of art, and possibly even the writers and artists themselves, will be outlawed.
It’s scary when self-expression becomes a target for people who are afraid of anything different, of anything they don’t understand. Self-expression is at the heart of the human experience. It helps us to find who we are as we’re growing up, and it helps to define us once we’ve matured. And self-expression takes many forms. It can be through writing, painting, music, dance, designing clothing, or even something as simple as a hairstyle or a piece of body art.
All of this is at risk due to a very vocal minority of people. I hope that those who support self-expression and the importance of sharing ideas and different viewpoints will begin to raise their voices in opposition to the fear that threatens to silence all of us.
Showing a kid the statue of David isn’t exposing them to pornography, it’s showing them the epitome of artistic skill, the beauty of the human form, and maybe it’s inspiring them to create something of beauty themselves. As I’ve said before, if you won’t want your family to read the Harry Potter books, then don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to stop the people who do want to read them.
We need to correct the ship and get back on the route to sanity and common sense. We’ve almost drifted too far and I’m afraid that, at some point, we’ll never get back on the right path.