I'm a fairly chill person as far as beliefs. I have a very, "Live and let live" kind of attitude. I don't know how many times I said to my own kids when they were growing up, "Be who you are". And I honestly meant it too. If someone else has a completely different mindset about religion or politics or child rearing (or most anything) than I do, I am fine with agreeing to disagree. I can like and respect a person who thinks differently than I do.
However, if you want to see my lose my cool, this would be one of the few topics. Censorship.
You already know that I read the newspaper every day. I love my newspapers and usually devour every word on every page. But there are days when I'm really busy and have to pare down the parts that I have the time to read. So no matter how crazy the day is and how little time I have, the three thing I ALWAYS read are the front page, the comics and the Op-Ed pages. And yesterday that's where I found it. The column that really wound me up. Are you ready for this?
Apparently in Spotsylvania County in Virginia, a school board voted - unanimously - to remove objectional material from their library shelves. So, in two simple words. Book Banning. And that in itself is usually enough to tick me off. But that wasn't enough for the good folks of Spotsylvania. Nope, some of them had to go a little further and publicly declare that they wanted to see those offensive books burned. And now I am burning mad.
This isn't a new idea of course. Books have been banned probably since there were books. A few examples that popped immediately to mind were Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence. It was published first in Italy in 1928 then in France in 1929. It didn't arrive in the US except covertly through European travellers until the 1960's whereupon it was immediately banned. I'm not sure the people who banned it bothered to read it. I think the title was enough. The word "lover" was titillating enough to set off their 'Morals' alarms. Note: I've read the book. It's fairly boring.
Brave New World by Alduous Huxley is another banned book. Written in 1931 in jolly old England, the book is a science fiction dystopian novel that was banned in Miller Missouri due it's acceptance of promiscuous sex in 1980. I guess Miller Missouri is a little more buttoned up than other places because it was required reading in the school I attended.
And let's not forget poor Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder a book (1932) beloved by families for years which was pulled from libraries in 2020 and considered offensive material because the author who was writing of her own personal experiences between 1810 and 1894 wasn't as politically aware as the people who make these decisions in the 21st century.
These people are breaking my heart.
You know it isn't just books that are banned, music too is often pulled from the air waves and out of stores. And it didn't have to be "gangsta rap" to offend people either.
"My Generation" by The Who, "Happiness of a Warm Gun" by the Beatles and "Physical" by Olivia New John were all banned on various radio stations. When Elvis Presley first swiveled his hips, lifted the corner of his lip and accused someone of being "Nothing but a Hound Dog" adults lost their collective minds. Not only his music but Elvis himself was banned in some areas. They burned his albums and then because they started getting carried away, other records went up in smoke too. Which did not stop his popularity one single bit.
And in fact, might have encouraged it. Nothing is quite as enticing as forbidden fruit. And the same thing goes for a lot of books. For example: The Valley of the Dolls By Jacqueline Susan which, incidentally, was an utterly crappy book is also on the list of books that were banned. As soon as it was banned it hit the stratosphere on the popularity charts. Not because it was a good book, you understand, but because it was taboo.
Some other books that have been banned, sadly, were the entire Harry Potter Series. In places like the Nashville School Library in 2019 where it was decided that it was too controversial and dangerous because, you know, magic is real?
The Wizard of Oz (1900) was banned in Chicago in 1928 and in Detroit in 1957 for similar reasons. Apparently there is a war on imagination and creativity that nobody told me about. And now in my head I am hearing the band, America singing "Oz never gave nothing to the Tin man, that didn't already have". Yeah, we do not want our children learning that particular lesson, right?
Even art has not escaped the heavy handed and narrow minded attitudes of the folks who make our decisions for us. "The Last Judgement" by Michelangelo way back in 1541 was banned by the very church that commissioned the painting. Michelangelo!!!! " The Mude Maja" by Francisco Goya in 1797 was banned for it's Extreme Imprudence. It was so offensive that it was seized by the authorities. Mercy! One of Picasso's early dabbles into Cubism back in 1907, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" was banned from public display. I might possibly fall into a swoon if I see it and we cannot have people fainting in shock over art in public places.
The thing is, what they are actually banning is not art or music or books or any other art form, it's ideas. They are banning ideas. The creativity that gives life to these amazing works can only come from having no confines for our artistic expression (in whatever form),. Books and music and art require freedom to exist. New ideas, different thoughts, unique perspectives are, apparently, so frightening to some people that they lash out and want them destroyed. No new ideas! No Different Thoughts! No Unique Perspectives allowed! It is a tragedy, it really is.
I have all the respect in the world for a parent who says, "that book (or song or painting) does not align with my beliefs and therefore I do not want my child to read it (or hear it or see it). Ok. You are their parent and you have that right. Sooooo don't play the song, don't read the book, don't look at that painting. It's really that simple. Then when your child is no longer a child, they will make up their own minds about it.
But you do not have the right to force your beliefs onto anyone who doesn't feel the same way. There may be folks around who have a different - and equally valid - way of thinking. Some parents might think that opening their child's eyes and heart and mind to new thoughts and a unique way of seeing the world is a good thing not a bad, evil scary thing.
Banning books is narrow minded. Burning books is well, honestly I cannot even think of the right word for it. And honestly, it's ridiculous. If you burn a book you are only making a point. The books exist somewhere and seriously, you can find anything on the internet. Kids will find this material that you are destroying if they really want to. Book burning is symbolic, yes I understand that. But what is it a symbol of? What is your point?
I suppose that's open to interpretation. It is such a destructive and heavy handed answer to a question that just isn't that tricky to answer. The punishment doesn't really fit the "crime". Book banners and burners are saying, "My way is the only right way. You must think like me". "I don't approve and neither should you". "I will make all decisions for you". And most importantly, they are saying, "This frightens me".
I am so angry, so sad, so concerned over this banning/burning thing raising it's ugly head once again. It's such a small step from removing books from the shelves of a school or public library to literally dictating what each individual is allowed to believe, think, say, read, do or wear ...........
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.