An unpopular subject
**rather long post ahead...forgive me in advance**
Censorship and book banning is not the most popular subject one can discuss. There are audiences more receptive to it than others. I'm pretty confident of who I can talk to about it and who I should leave alone concerning it. Some people like being challenged in how they think; others, and I'm sad to say I know many, would rather cling to a preconditioned set of ideals and never once consider something different.
I don't speak out against censorship to tell someone they're wrong. EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion. And THAT'S the key argument against censorship: whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, EVERYONE should be allowed their own opinion: the person writing/saying the challenged material AND the person challenging it.
Oftentimes, however, the person doing the challenging fails to see that what they are failing to do is grant the other part the same respect that they are demanding. "I don't like it!", "Stop saying that!", "That offends me!" are just other ways of saying, "Do it my way", "I don't care what you think", and "I'm right and you're wrong". It's simply not the case with books.
A book is written because the author had something to say. Many times, writers confront hard issues and deep truths through fiction. These issues and truths are rarely popular. I've never been a fan of fiction that left me feeling as if someone stuck a pacifier in my brain and left me to suck on it until I atrophied. I want fiction that challenges the way I think, challenges what I believe. Why? Simple: if you're never challenged at your core, you never really understand why you believe what you believe. It's one thing to say, "I believe the sky is blue because the weather man says it is"; it's quite another to say, "I believe the sky is blue because I've seen it with my own eyes!"
Call it serendipity or rather a subconscious act on my part, but I am busy writing a term paper this week on one of the world's most challenged books: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury said that his book was not about censorship but it was about the atrophy of human intelligence due to an increasing amount of technology. This I believe. But I also have to hand it to Bradbury: if he wasn't writing a book about the dangers of censorship, his subconscious did one heck of a job of getting that theme past him!
In doing my research, I found a wonderful article by Rodney A. Smolla from the Michigan Law Review, April 2009, entitled "The Life of the Mind and the Life of Meaning: Reflections on Fahrenheit 451".There's a link to the pdf HERE if you're interested. Though this article is reflecting on Bradbury's masterpiece, Smolla also writes compellingly about censorship and the danger of getting too caught up in the constant noise and distraction that technology offers us.
Frighteningly enough, Smolla reiterates the fact that, according to F451, censorship is rarely instigated by the government. It is often initiated by the people and the government follows suit. In F451, the people began to edit out of books anything that may offend anyone. Pretty soon, they were left with nothing but footnotes and it was then that books began being burned. People stopped reading, stopped challenging convention.
The scariest thing about censorship is this: even if someone wishes to ban a book that offends everyone, the banning of that book can cause nothing but harm. Who's to say that the next person who emerges with a challenge isn't challenging something less harsh? They win and the next person, a lesser issue, and so on and so forth and then suddenly anything printed is forbidden?
Do you see the frightening pattern? It is not because I don't take issue with some of what's being printed and published that I'm against censorship; it is the simple fact that I do not want someone telling me what I can and cannot write, can or cannot read.
Writing and reading is an intimate act. The person doing the writing or reading should be allowed the freedom to choose what words they want.
It's that simple.
(Thanks for indulging me in a rather long post this morning. Any thoughts you have on the censorship issue are welcome! I don't usually blog from a soapbox, but there are a couple of issues I feel quite passionate about. Censorship is one of them.)