Working on a promotional piece for the upcoming Banned Book Week, I have been assigned the task of promoting a campaign to get people to read books that have been banned or challenged by communities and governments.
In my research phase, I’ve come across numerous reasons for certain books being banned. And I am infuriated.
Censorship As “Protection”
I’m all for community standards and protecting our future generations, but this idea of “protection” through blatant censorship has become absurd. Some of these reasons I can comprehend, others I never will:
- J.D. Salinger’s classic The Catcher in the Rye made the list because of its use of “profanity throughout along with the portrayal of events like prostitution, depression, and alienation.”**
- George Orwell’s Animal Farm has been banned for its “pro-communist sentiment and sexuality.”*
- Brave New World depicts using drugs and sex to dull the pain of a dystopian society.*
- Guliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift has been banned for its themes of “political corruption, anti-war sentiments, and the injustices of colonization.”*
- George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, has been banned as being “pro-communist” in its ideas of goverment.*
- William Golding’s Lord of the Flies has been banned because “the exploration of human nature can force readers to examine themselves in ways that may not feel comfortable.” *
- Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach has been challenged due to “violence, language, and disobedience towards adults” from a young protagonist who “lives under the oppression of mean caretakers and relies on his creativity and an alternate world in order to survive.”*
- J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has been banned because parents “fear that fantasy and reality could become confused for children.”**
- Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl has been challenged for being “too depressing”!*
- Even the environmentally conscious The Lorax by Dr. Seuss has been challenged because “it shows an unfair portrayal of those in the logging industry.”*
“Think of the Children”
I am thinking of our children! I am concerned for our future generations. Censorship stops the flow of ideas. It stops independent and creative thought. Under the guise of “protection” it extinguishes the flame of our personal and social evolution.
1984 isn’t about the communist manifesto, it is about not settling for social norms and embracing our independence and our freedom to choose.
Brave New World is a cautionary tale of how deadened we wish to become when we relinquish our independence. In both cases, those who wish to stifle these thoughts unintelligently become the antagonists the novels warn of.
Banning Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl because it’s “too depressing” is akin to being a holocaust denier. Sure, we want our children to read happy stories, but do we want to gloss over reality? While Anne Frank may be brutally honest, it is a necessary work to show how negative choices can affect innocent people.
The Importance of Fiction
It is clear that people who ban Anne Frank wish to live in a fictional world. Sadly though, these are often the same people who wish to remove fiction all together by banning Harry Potter, claiming vaguely that, “fantasy and reality could become confused for children.” Really?
Children need to have an imagination. It’s part of childhood, and psychologists know that it is an important part of the developmental process. Imagination needs to be encouraged. Imagination is the prime example of independent creative thought that moves society forward.
If Edison hadn’t first imagined the light bulb, we’d all be in the dark. If your children don’t know the difference between reality and pretend, it is your job as a parent to explain it to them.
Explain that fiction is used to tell stories that are both fun and complicated. The fables of Aesop use fiction as metaphor to teach important lessons. These same metaphors can be found in cartoons even to this day.
Are we trying to take away that important creative spirit and “protect” our children from learning life’s most important lessons?
Infection Of Ideas
Ideas are infectious, like a virus, spreading from one person to the next through our words and stories. A good idea, like a good germ, can protect us, help us, and even help us to grow individually and socially. Censorship is the “cure” for this virus of ideas; and it stops us in our tracks. It destroys our “good germs” along with the bad and keeps us from moving forward as a people. The more good ideas we spread, the healthier and happier we will become.
Read as much as you can. Embrace new ideas. Be imaginative. Express and encourage independent thought. Share ideas. Spread those good germs. And stop censorship before our world rises to a temperature of Fahrenheit 451.
Please share your thoughts on banning books, and censorship in general, in the comments below.
Between his job as a video editor and his hobby as a digital creative, Eric Kuentz thrives on the continuous quest for self-improvement.