Do you remember all the way back to last Tuesday, when the Washington Post still was referred to as a “liberal” newspaper? Many people believe that. The following day, Wednesday September 26th, was the day the Post just might have turned the corner.
Ron Charles, the Post’s book critic, opined we might not need Banned Books Week any longer. “I just wish Banned Books Week didn’t appear to exaggerate a problem that’s largely confined to our repressive past… Are we winning any converts with this annual orgy of self-righteousness?”
He contradicted his point when he reported how many books were, indeed, banned last year. The label of self-righteousness rarely is self-imposed.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that, over the years, I have edited or contributed to a decent number of “banned books” and have been railing against banning books for, damn, a very long time. When it comes to the Pop Culture Squad, well, suffice it to say I am not alone.
Mr. Charles states, among other things (and I urge you to read his piece, to which I conveniently posted the link in my second paragraph), “Doesn’t Banned Books Week carelessly lump together the interested mother with the book-burning Nazi?” Well, part of the parenting process is the unfortunate imposition of mommy and daddy’s more disgusting values onto their children. Such is life, and many kids challenge those “values” as part of their maturation process. But my blanket response to this sort of challenge is “If you don’t want to be conflated with book-burning Nazis, stop acting like a book-burning Nazi!”
I am opposed to removing any book from any library or any bookstore. The librarian and the bookseller have no right to impose their self-indulgent mores upon an unsuspecting audience. By removing that which they find objectionable, they believe they have the right to transplant their views and politics onto everybody else. They most certainly do not.
For the record, I would not even ban Mein Kampf. Indeed, I encourage teenagers to read this book and to discuss it from both the moral and the historical perspectives. As I often do, I once again quote George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Arguably, that is the most important aphorism of all time.
You may ask “OK, smart-ass. Would you edit a graphic novel adaptation of Mein Kampf?” I’m hardly your go-to-guy for far-right-wing subject matter, although I have proudly worked with many conservative and right-wing talent and I never interfered with their points of view. Adolf Hitler… well, my own backstory just might get in the way of that.
Librarians are teachers and… well… teachers teach. That means discuss, exchange points of view, and listen. Point out the problems with allowing a person with a small gaggle of follows to shove his or her will down everybody else’s throats. That’s particularly important these days, no matter what your worldview might be. If we don’t keep these discussions going, the next thing we’ll see is these same librarians and teachers cart away all the copies of the greatest American novel, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Actually, we’ve been seeing this for a while now, but most of these culture vultures seem content to merely censor the hell out of the book – thereby voiding the author’s point.
I understand his concerns and I think Mr. Charles’ piece was well-written and rather clever. But when it comes to bringing attention to censorship and the imposition of limits to the acquisition of knowledge, his heart is in the right place but his head’s up his ass.
I say that with respect.