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Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's Banned Books Week! Yay?

Over at the Guardian, author Lauren Myracle makes an eloquent plea to 'build bridges' with book banners. I have to admire her general reasonableness and willingness to connect with these horrid pinheads. As you'll see below, she's way more generous and turn-the-other-cheeky than I am and I admire her for that.
Where Myralce and I part company is near the end of her article, when she raises an objection to someone calling book-banners "prudish, small-minded, and self-righteous." Isn't this like not wanting to label NBA all-stars as "tall and athletically inclined"? Aren't censors prudish, small-minded and at least a little self-righteous by definition? Are there any would-be book-banners running around who are libertine, cosmopolitan and humble? If you know any--or are one--please let me know.
She concludes her article with:
If you want to join the conversation, do this: read one of the titles on the current list of most frequently-challenged books. Then pass the book along to someone else, whether that someone is an adult or a kid. Then, together, talk about the book openly and with mutual respect for each other's opinions. Do that, and you will have made the world a better place.
I love the idea of sharing books and opinions with our intellectual enemies. After all, it'd be pretty hypocritical to try to shout them down or, worse, force them to abide by civil discourse. Great idea, I just wish I were more optimistic about it.
I disagree, however, with the notion that we have to respect their opinions. I absolutely respect their right to hold their cancerous, life-denying opinions, but the opinion itself? Never. The very idea of "I don't like it, so you can't have it" is toxic and stupid and needs to go the way of "Hey, let's own those guys and make them work our fields" and "My god wants me to be your king."
It's one thing to want to keep your child from certain books. (I'm still not sure that we ever have to protect kids from words and ideas, but as a parent that's absolutely your prerogative.) But the instant you try to tell someone else what they can read you've crossed the line. And that's the line we have to hold because if we give tiny-minded parochial types an atom of power over what we read, they'll try to take it all.