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And Another Thing: Honoring the book, not the ban

By: Susan Rushton
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I love Banned Books Week. While I hate that books are banned, or challenged, or censored or quietly removed from library shelves, I love that I live in a time and in a country where I can easily find information about banned and challenged books. I love that I live in a time and in a country where the idea and the act of banning books unnerves and enrages a large number of people. I understand that certain subjects and certain language offend certain individuals and certain groups. I myself find certain subjects and certain language offensive. But when I stumble across something that offends me, I walk away. Note, please, that my actions make no demands on you. Whatever I may think, I don’t insist that you turn your back on something just because I don’t like it. Because this is the United States and we have the First Amendment, I have the right to read or watch or listen to whatever I want, no matter what you might think of it. I have the right to make up my own mind. You have that same right. Neither of us has the right to tell the other what we can or can’t read. The same goes for our children, if we have any. You have the right to decide how or whether to restrict what your child sees or hears or reads. That’s it, though. If you don’t want your child to read something, fine. Restrict your child’s access to that book. But don’t decide for other people’s children. Don’t tell me, your neighbor, your school, your library or your bookstore that nobody should read it. That’s the battle. It’s ongoing and volatile. That’s the reason behind Banned Book Week. I understand the sincerity of those who would prevent libraries or schools from making Atticus Finch, Captain Ahab, Harry Potter or Anne Frank (to name only four examples) available to anyone of any age. Or available at all. I do. Like me, they would prefer a world where uncomfortable subjects, language and situations just didn’t exist, so we’d never have to think about them. But we don’t live in a world like that, and there’s nothing we can do about it, save behave differently ourselves. However, we can take these uncomfortable ideas and situations out and look at them and discuss them and work to understand them-instead of trying to hide them or struggling to deny they exist. As much as we want them not to exist, there they are. And the less we look at them, the less we talk about them, the more fearsome they become. The unknown: it scares us the most. And trying to keep these subjects and knowledge of situations from children by refusing to discuss them tells them something you probably don’t want them to understand: there are things we won’t discuss; there are things so terrible that we can’t talk about them; there are awful things out there that you won’t let them learn about. So: first, they have to learn about them sometime. If they don’t learn about them from you, where will they learn them? Second, as generation after generation keeps discovering, making something forbidden guarantees instant fascination with whatever is forbidden. If you want your children to learn something, tell them it’s bad for them. Go ahead. Tell ‘em it’s disgusting and see what happens. I dare you. Third, and most important: Demanding that everyone turn a blind eye to what offends you makes no sense. It’s pointless and shortsighted. It’s unpatriotic and the action perfectly defines the word Un-American. That’s why I love Banned Book Week. Because it’s so patriotic. Susan Rushton’s opinion column appears every other Sunday in the Auburn Journal. Her email address is rushton@suddenlink.net. ----------- 30th Annual Banned Books Week www.banned booksweek. org.