It’s Banned Books Week.
My go-to banned book is To Kill a Mockingbird … perhaps one day I shall tell you the story of my love for this book, but the very short version is that To Kill a Mockingbird was the one book I read in high school, for class, that I absolutely loved and did not want to have end.
I wasn’t a kid who didn’t read; my A-ha! Books are *awesome*! moment probably happened around the age of two, when I figured out that there were stories in these flappy things my parents kept giving me. But I always think about the utter joy I had, reading To Kill a Mockingbird during silent reading in English Honors II, and coming across this quote, quite near the beginning of the novel:
Atticus had urged them to accept the state’s generosity in allowing them to plead Guilty to second-degree murder and escape with their lives, but they were Haverfords, in Maycomb County a name synonymous with jackass. The Haverfords had dispatched Maycomb’s leading blacksmith in a misunderstanding arising from the alleged wrongful detention of a mare, were imprudent enough to do it in the presence of three witnesses, and insisted that the-son-of-a-bitch-had-it-coming-to-him was a good enough defense for anybody.
Dude, ohmygod, I was reading a book in class that had swearing in it! And it was funny!
And what if I’d been a kid who hated reading, and that had been my a-ha! moment? What if I were a kid for whom that could have been my a-ha! moment, but because the book had been yanked from the school curriculum because of its language, I never got to read it?
So, yeah. Go read To Kill a Mockingbird. Or, hell, 50 Shades of Grey. Or both, why not? Check them out of your library.
(My first thought was that this was opening a door for anyone whose novel is passed over by an agent/publisher to start yelling about being censored, but then I realized that people do that, anyway.)
Let’s be honest–I would totally love a world where people weren’t horrible. And I would like them to all agree to my terms of not being horrible. But … yeah, no.
I’ve been a First Amendment nutjob since high school. Which means I have to respect and defend the right of anyone to say whatever they want to say, vile or not. And I do actually believe that the best way to combat the vile things that people say is to argue with those things. Critique them. Poke holes in their arguments; show the rest of the world the logical fallacies and the rage-induced hyperbole.** (I taught argumentative writing; it slips out now and then.)
Because, as my lovely friend Jason says, you have the right to say whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to not get called on it. It’s discourse, and by trying to ban books, we take that possibility for discourse away.
*I am capable of this, myself; just ask the husband about watching Star Trek: Into Darkness with me this past weekend.