If I believed in hell, people who ban books would occupy a very special place in it. They’d have to sit at bar stools in replicas of the gayest gay bars, reciting Howl over and over again, while devilish bartenders endlessly pump out boiling liquid shit into steaming mugs and force those righteous bastards to drink it.
The school district my mother teaches in recently found itself the target of an attempted book banning. Luckily, the school district showed a little backbone, to the relief of my mother and all her colleagues–not to mention the students. The book stayed.
But my mother’s school district was an exception. She happens to teach in a pretty educated, fairly liberal community, which was a big help when it came time to defend the book. The community was outraged. But many communities are not. Many school districts are targets of book banners and, intimidated, end up removing the book entirely. And apparently, the organized efforts to ban books are getting more frequent. Like the tea partiers, these outraged people are finding each other and putting real people power into what used to be little more than one angry parent or two.
This is scary. Not only is it scary on the most basic, fundamental level–that of freedom of speech–but it’s also scary on an intellectual freedom issue. It’s scary for young adult writers–some of the most frequent targets of book banners–who want to write about controversial, important issues or in an honest way about sex, or drugs, or religion. It’s scary, in light of all the other scary stuff going on politically today, that a nation founded in the flowering of the Enlightenment has a not insignificant populace that essentially agrees that censorship is really just fine, that stands up and says, “My kid can’t read this and neither can yours,” that then heads to a political caucus and screams about defending our Constitution.
And it’s scariest of all, as Professor John in the article suggests, that many library books simply disappear from circulation, and no one knows or notices. This is way our freedom ends. Not with a bang, but with a box being packed. And another book is gone.