Book Banning: The Joy of Censorship


You can burn a book, but you can't kill an idea

You can burn a book, but you can’t kill an idea

There are certain groups of people who seem to love banning books and censoring thoughts and language. Among the most notorious are conservative Christians and Nazis. (Although we could throw in Muslims as well, to be fair). Interestingly, while conservative Christians aggressively try to ban or censor anything they find that is objectionable to the Christian faith, they have no problem at all with defending freedom of speech when it comes to insulting Islam.

Over the years, many classic books as well as many benign children’s books have fallen under strict religious scrutiny and have drawn the ire of religious zealots who feel it is their duty in life to protect the rest of humanity from itself. Take a look at a sample of books that have been banned over the years:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
1984, by George Orwell
Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

Most of these books are considered classics by the literary world and yet, each became the target of fearful thinking and fell victim to the “thought terrorists”. (I won’t use the term “thought police” because that conjures the image of a group that is looking out for the welfare of the public. Censoring these books is outright terrorism and thus I choose that word to describe the actions of the book burners.)

It’s not only classics that have drawn the fundamental spotlight. Many popular children’s books have fallen prey to intellectual jihad including:

Charlotte’s Web

Talking spiders are evil

Talking spiders are evil

 

Where the Wild Things Are

Children in pajamas are evil

Children in pajamas are evil

 

The Lorax

Criticizing the lumber industry is evil

Criticizing the lumber industry is evil

And Winnie the Pooh

Talking bears are evil

Talking bears are evil

The efforts to ban books and censor language has been raging for a long time, so it was with some pleasure and humor that I read this article that detailed how one California school chose to ban all books with ties to Christianity from its library. The basis of this decision, from what I gleaned from the article, was that since it was a public school funded by taxpayer dollars, there was an inherent need to separate church from state under the authority of the First Amendment.

The article appeared on a website called Christiantoday.com and you can easily read the moral outrage from the author at the audacity of the school superintendent for enacting this ban. Strange how banning books is appealing to Christians when they are the ones deciding the moral and intellectual value of literature, but when that’s turned against them, we start hearing the “How dare you?” and “What right do you have?” and “It’s an attack on religion” arguments.

As I write this article, I am trying to determine which point I would rather focus on highlighting: The concept that when a group tries to impose it’s moral authority against others, that can be turned against them, or the concept that censoring ideas is contradictory to the foundations of an enlightened society. Ah, what the hell, you choose.

I’ll close this article with the observation that I’ve been writing a lot of articles lately with a “Freedom” based theme. I’m not sure why this particular bug has crawled up my backside. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been seeing so many issues related to freedom in the news lately or maybe I’ve just had my fill of the hypocrisy I see all around me. Whatever the reason, I stand by my positions and will champion my idea of freedom through my writing. I hope that the topics I’ve chosen lately have been interesting for you and whether you agree with my position or not, it is my wish that I have at least inspired thought and possible conversation regarding the ideas of personal and social freedom. As always, thank you for reading.

~V

 

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