Even though I advocate for Banned Books Week every year, and post these lists every year, I'm always still surprised by some of the thoughts and ideas that people want to censor. Though I have to admit that it doesn't surprise me that the vast majority of these challenges come from parents.
"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us." ~ Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
As always, bear with me as I whip out my soapbox and make my annual open declaration in support of freedom of thought:
Look, I get it: I'm a parent. I want to protect my kids from all that "bad" stuff out there, too. And I agree, wholeheartedly, that it's perfectly acceptable - important and necessary, even - for parents to guide their children's content-intake.
You, as a parent, should absolutely be as aware as possible of what your child is reading, viewing or playing. And you have the right and responsibility to censor that content as you see fit FOR YOUR OWN CHILDREN.
Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire
Please note my oh-so-subtle emphasis there. Attempting to remove a book or other material from the public domain is NOT a parental right - it is an act that infringes on the rights of others.
Even the best of motivations - to protect children from inappropriate content - has a hugely detrimental effect on one of our most fundamental rights: The freedom to think and to express those thoughts without censorship by the government.
Even more than protecting my kids from the "dangerous" thoughts of people I don't agree with, I am personally and passionately compelled to protect that right for my kids.
"Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof; or Abridging the Freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble, and To Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances."
~ First Amendment
Are there books that I personally wouldn't mind going away forever? Yeah, in theory. There are some pretty reprehensible thoughts out there.
"If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all." ~ Noam Chomsky
But I would - and do - still defend their right to exist. And, in my opinion, none of the books on this year's Challenged or Banned Books list or on the Frequently Banned Books list come even close to that level of "inappropriate content".
But, that's just the point. It's not my opinion that matters for you, nor your opinion that matters for me. You only get to decide for you.
So, here's the deal: You stay the hell away from my public library with your black marker and red pens, and I won't give you kid a gift-wrapped copy of the Harry Potter collection, and we'll all get along just fine, 'kay?
Enjoy your book,
"The paper burns, but the words fly away." ~ Akiba ben Joseph
Don't forget to check out the Banned Books Week Virtual Read Out on YouTube.