When I went back to college in my late 40s, I remember walking through the libraries at Meredith and Duke talking to the books. I told them that I regretted that I probably wouldn’t be able to read all of them, but I thanked them for the information they had, and I wish I knew what they knew.
Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, was the first church I knew about the banned books. I remember pictures of bonfires and flames. Other churches fill the news today banning books, such as Harry Potter and the Twilight series, because they lead people to the occult and perhaps even to witchcraft. Ah, Sorcery. Let’s fear imagination. It can be a dangerous thing. Something about this has the ring of the Salem Witch Trials. Burn them at the stake. That almost always works.
There may be no malice in burning books, but there is certainly harm. Most of the books that are banned today deal with issues of racism, gender differences, especially LGBTQ and transgender issues, books about sexuality and reproduction. Also books about slavery, Racism, the Holocaust, Eugenics, Apartheid, and even the Wilmington Riots. Any difficult and embarrassing topic, however enlightened, that might make a few people uncomfortable (mostly straight, white, Christian Zealots who thrive on fear mongering) is fair game in the book-banning arena. It’s funny that we can speak freely until it challenges our ideas of right and wrong.
People burn books because they are afraid. Fear that first person slave narratives will be known by a mass of readers. First person experiences of sexual abuse. First-person memoirs of transgender and bisexual life experiences. It almost seems that “let’s keep the people ignorant of what is real in the world and in history, then we will be able to control them.” This is at least a dystopian philosophy.
Do we really think that ignorance will make slavery and gender differences and climate change issues disappear? In the June issue of The Washington Post, an article by Angela Haupt reports that “1,586 individual books were banned during the nine-month period from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. Texas had the most bans, and then Pennsylvania, Florida, then Oklahoma.” A recent report in the Wilmington Star News highlights how this banning book is reaching New Hanover Schools now. People are showing up at school board meetings, and they are not necessarily the parents of children in those schools. Disruption of school boards often makes the news and certainly feeds Twitter. People everywhere are outraged about something that shouldn’t be a problem in the first place .
Prohibitionists in the United States mobilized Congress to pass the 18th Amendment, which was ratified in 1919. The Temperance League, churches and other groups such as the Anti-Saloon League fought to have “the manufacture, importation, transportation and sale of alcohol prohibited. ” Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933. I wonder what happened during those years? Bootlegging. Easy Talk. Alcohol sales went underground. “Secret breweries” ensured that alcohol flowed freely.
The same thing happened in South Africa with books that told the story of oppression and cruelty happening every day to Native People under the heavy hand of the South African Government. Uncomfortable truths must be dangerous to get out. Because when people know the truth, they are empowered to make a change, with justice and fairness on their side. Too bad change scares so many people.
This seems like Parenting 101 to me. If I tell my child what he can’t do … like, “Johnny, don’t touch the stove, it’s hot,” what’s the first thing he’s going to do? He touches the stove. So much for telling someone they can’t do that, they can’t read that. In a world where social media is practically the wild, wild west and every child in America has access to it, why do we care about books?
Age-appropriate books from across the spectrum of human experience (including sexuality), from Science, Medicine, the Arts, the Humanities, Literature, History, Theology, and everything in between should be read by everyone who I hope to grow into critical thinkers. . Ignoring truth and history by banning books will lead us to a great Ignorance from which we cannot recover. Rethink the book ban. Don’t go down that path.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist minister, retreat leader and host of the website: virtualchurch.com. She welcomes comments at email@example.com.
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