For some time now, our society, and perhaps that word should be used in its loosest term, has debated our various rights as defined by the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the massive tomes of laws created from those two relatively simple documents.
One thing that continues to bug me is the fervor in which the same person will first defend his or her rights – often to the death – on one issue (take your pick) while at the same time, insisting they have the right take away someone else’s rights because it is something they don’t agree with nor support.
I personally feel that if you are adamant (to the death!) that no one should be allowed to infringe on your rights, as defined by law, then you have absolutely no right to insist on taking away the rights of others. To do so is the purest form of hypocrisy.
One right that is often at the forefront of most discussions is the right of free speech. As a writer/reporter/reader, this is the one right that is at the top of my list of importance. So, anytime someone or some group gets up in arms about what people should or should not read, I take an interest. Recently, even our former governor, now university president, has turned into a bit of a literature critic as e-mails have come out showing that, while serving as head of our state, he attempted to discourage the reading as well as the teaching of a history book on state campuses.
Like many people, I had not heard of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Back in July, the Associated Press reported that the former governor took steps during his second term to eliminate “liberal breeding grounds at Indiana’s public universities, requesting that Zinn’s writings be banned from classrooms and asking for a ‘cleanup’ of college courses he called ‘propaganda.’” (Quote from the AP article.)
This week, it was reported that, if you want to borrow that book from just about any library around, you’re going to have to wait. They’re all checked out, plus there’s a waiting list, and that’s with some libraries scrambling to get extra copies.
So much for not letting anyone read it.
At this moment, I have enough to read, and political history really isn’t a favorite topic of mine, so I’m not scrambling to find a copy. But that’s only because the topic doesn’t interest me and has nothing to do with Daniels’ attempt at being a book critic.
I am pleased, though, that Daniels’ attempt to hide the book, in a way, completely backfired. I hope for the same result anytime a person or group attempts to ban a book. They are basically trying to take away one of our rights solely because they don’t agree with something.
I can only imagine the same group of people fighting (to the death, of course) if I were to suggest that a book that they don’t object to should be removed from our library shelves and that those caught reading it should be ostracized by society, solely because I don’t agree with what it says.
Again, if you don’t want me trying to take away your rights, don’t try telling me what is right.
Now, if you don’t want me to read a book, it’s very simple – tell me it’s not a good story. The story is bad. Plot holes abound. Thin, poorly created characters.
Don’t tell me I can’t read it because it covers a subject you don’t approve of or that the author’s ideas go against your own.
One of my favorite authors since high school has been Stephen King, an author that has had a fair number of his own books brought into the argument of whether or not they should be banned. I would like to end with a few quotes from him on this issue (taken from his website):
“A proposal to ban a book should always be given the gravest consideration. Book-banners, after all, insist that the entire community should see things their way, and only their way. When a book is banned, a whole set of thoughts is locked behind the assertion that there is only one valid set of values, one valid set of beliefs, one valid perception of the world. It's a scary idea, especially in a society which has been built on the ideas of free choice and free thought.”
“No book, record, or film should be banned without a full airing of the issues. As a nation, we've been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn't approve of them.”
“Think carefully before you decide to accord the book-banners this right of cancellation, and remember that they don't believe in democracy but rather in a kind of intellectual autocracy.”