There’s something somewhat antiquated about the concept of banning books. Societies of the past have participated in book bans and even book burnings in the town square. Before the recent news stories about banning books, America had an odd obsession with rap music, destroying CDs with steamrollers to the cheers of those who feared its edgy lyrics.
People fear what they don’t understand and don’t care to learn about. And ignorance spawns an odd mob mentality that can lead to collective fear, anger, and violence. In our most recent incarnation of book banning, LGBTQIA+ books in school libraries have been the target of many parents and politicians. This has led to threats on librarians to closed local libraries due to pulled funding.
Let’s dig into the idea of banning books in 2022 and whether all this madness and furor is worth it.
Is it Really About “Protecting the Children,” And What Exactly Are We “Protecting the Children” From?
We hear this from both sides of the political spectrum. It’s all about protecting the innocent child. Conservative and progressive politicians and parents use this fictional child entity as a political weapon. This fake child will be forever scarred, their life ruined if they see – or don’t see – something before the age of eighteen.
What I find interesting about this in the context of banning books is that we never hear from real children who are upset, offended, or bothered by the content of these “evil” books that have “invaded” their school libraries to “corrupt” their naïve and unknowing consciences.
While I do believe that there is content that children shouldn’t be able to access, we also have to accept that in 2022 where everyone has some device linked to the internet, most young people have viewed content – on accident or not – that is probably more graphic than anything they will see in a library book.
Let’s move on to another aspect of this book banning that many have not considered.
The Taboo Effect
When I was in high school, a college acting troupe came to our church and did a sketch about the evils of television. One of the bits was a re-enactment of a scene from Married…with Children. I had never seen the show, but the troupe’s portrayal of the Bundy family didn’t seem that offensive or make them look that bad.
That night at home, I found a rerun of the show on TV and have been a lifelong fan of the series ever since.
I don’t think that was the intended outcome this acting troupe was hoping for.
Kids – and I used to be one – always seek ways to rebel against their parents and society. They can be overt acts of rebellion or more covert acts. When someone in authority tells a young person not to do something and becomes hyperbolic in their reasoning as to why it’s bad, a kid is more likely to want to find out about it for themselves.
When I hear about a book being banned, I immediately want to know why, and it also makes me want to read it to see just how “bad,” “evil,” and “morally corrupt” it is. And if I’m doing that in my 40s, curious kids and teens will do the same thing.
When a society demonizes something – rock music, rap music, video games – it tends to make that thing more popular and more intriguing due to its taboo nature.
Another aspect of this is that these parents and politicians who bring up these books and want them exorcized from libraries are creating free publicity and generating interest for them as well. There were thousands of books in the school libraries at my elementary, middle, and high school, and most I never looked at or read. Were there books about topics that some may have found objectionable? More than likely. But if attention isn’t drawn to them, no one knows about them, and they remain on the shelf.
By broadcasting your disdain and disgust for a book on a national stage, you just made that book more popular.
Book Banning in the Amazon Era
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, if you wanted to ban a book from your local library – like The Catcher in the Rye – you would probably have successfully kept it out of the hands of the “vulnerable” youth in your town.
However, in 2022, a book ban at a school is pretty meaningless when anyone can order any book they wish via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any number of used booksellers online. Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) did a big presentation in Congress about a children’s book called The Anti-Racist Baby. If he were rallying against this book in 1950, we probably would never have seen the book again in most sections of the country.
But his is 2022, and his presentation about the book led to a surge in sales on Amazon, making it the #1 children’s book that week.
Senator Cruz’s action leads me to another point…
Never Trust a Politician
Whether on the right or left, Democrat or Republican, conservative or progressive, politicians only want your money and your vote. When you see any political entity either rallying for or against books being banned, ask yourself: What’s in it for them?
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is banning LGBTQIA+ books and even some textbooks from schools across his state. Read more here:
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom sent an Instagram post of himself reading a stack of banned books at a table. Oddly, one of the books Newsom had in his pile – To Kill a Mockingbird – was banned from a school district in his own state.
In our era of aggressive political divisiveness and hyperbolic rhetoric, these two governors, Ted Cruz, and others of their ilk show that making book banning a political issue is silly, pointless, and another attempt to fundraise off of scared parents who are either afraid of books being banned or want more books banned ASAP.
The American Library Association publishes a list of The Most Challenged Books annually. I highly recommend checking out the list and reading a few of them to see why politicians and others are so appalled and oppose these works.
Here’s the link:
So, the next time you see any politician talking about banning books for any reason, ask yourself their motivation. More than likely, it has nothing to do with saving the children or protecting society from bad words on a page. It’s probably all about them.
The Offended Offensive
It’s fashionable in 2022 to be offended or upset by something, and books that have content contrary to one’s personal beliefs are a great way to get riled up and cause problems for school boards and libraries.
My take is that you have the right to control what your child reads, but not what my child reads and has access to in the library. That’s not your call. By creating a blanket of being offended on behalf of everyone, you do more harm than good, causing a national uproar when you are the only one with the problem.
In 2022, with a 24/7 news cycle and social media, one person can act like they are one of the angry millions when that is probably not the case.
When you see a story about a parent or politician upset over a book in their child’s library, take a step back and find out why they are upset and demanding the ban. What perspective are they coming from? Is there an agenda behind their demands? Are they upset about the content or how it’s presented? Would you even know about this book if this person wasn’t on CNN?
By taking the time to find out the why you’ll see that there may be religious or political reasons why this person is offended or upset. They have the right to be upset and offended, but that shouldn’t give them the power to ban a book.
Author Salman Rushdie was attacked and stabbed during a talk this past week. He made headlines and created controversy in 1989 when he published The Satanic Verses, and a fatwa was placed on his head by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran. According to The New York Times, the Ayatollah ordered “Muslims to kill Mr. Rushdie and [put] a price on his head of several million dollars. Mr. Rushdie, who lived in London at the time, immediately went into hiding with 24-hour protection from the British police, moving every three days from place to place until a fortified safehouse was prepared for him. He lived there for most of the next 10 years.”
Three decades later, there are still people angry about Rushdie’s work. And now, Rushdie is in critical condition from injuries caused by an angry man with a knife.
Is this where we’re headed? Actual violence against authors who write content someone objects to or finds offensive? We have to do better than this.
Being offended is one thing, but violence, attempted murder, or taking someone’s life because you object to their writing cannot be tolerated in our society in 2022.
More on the Rushdie story here:
More about the fatwa here:
Learn more about The Satanic Verses here:
Keeping Literature Alive
If you read a lot like I do or follow authors or book channels, you’ve probably come across this slogan on mugs or shirts:
I am 100% for doing this. If someone is trying to ban a book, go out and buy it. Don’t let the mob on social media or a news story tell you what your opinion should be; read the book and make up your own mind.
Don’t fall prey to groupthink.
So, the next time you hear about a book being banned, do your research, learn about it, buy it, and fight against the powers that wish to silence authors.
Happy Reading, and I’ll see you next time!
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!