Books Are Not Firewood

I read a news article recently that upset me to no end. And it got me thinking about where we’ve come in our society. It doesn’t make me proud. Nor should you be either.

We’ve recently been slammed with stories about books being removed from school libraries because they’re “offensive”. We are we doing this again? We are attempting to censor what kids should read?

Now, let me say this before I go any further. Or before you start calling me names that can’t be printed in this blog. I’m not referring to books about explicit sex and graphic homosexuality, which I don’t think should be in our school libraries. If kids want them all they have to do is go to a bookstore or the internet. There are plenty of those books available on line, unfortunately.

I’m referring to books that have been around for a long time. Books my generation has read and enjoyed. Books that were actually on our high school required reading lists, and I really don’t think most of us turned out all that bad. 

But today some of those books are deemed offensive, because they were written in a time that the subject matter was either a way of life or was (and still IS) a part of our history. The authors wrote about what they knew, and weren’t concerned about offending someone. On the contrary, many of those authors wanted to not only tell a good story, but to make people think. And in some cases, expose the hypocrisy of some of the people around them.

Now people are calling for banning certain books which have swear words in them. I’m sure their kids have never heard those words, I say sarcastically; certainly never in their own homes (also said sarcastically). Don’t worry, though; they’ll hear them somewhere!

Or because they deal with a time in our nation’s history that many people want to ignore. But ignoring it doesn’t mean it never happened. It just means we’re afraid of our children learning about it. And history tells us that we repeat mistakes if we don’t know those mistakes that have been tried before with disastrous results.

Whether you like them or not, books are an expression of free speech, which sadly, in some areas of our country, is no longer tolerated without violence. I may not agree with the content of a book, so I choose not to read it, but I support the author’s right to have written it, and the publisher’s right to publish.

But the real story that got me started deals with a book burning that recently happened In Tennessee. A pastor decided that certain “demonic”  books, such as by J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series, and the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, were evil. They promoted sorcery and witchcraft, and contained real spells that readers could use. Now one question I have here…how does he know this? Has he tried them? And if so, why? 

So he organized a huge book burning and encouraged his followers to get all the copies of these books, and others like them, that they could find, and meet at the book burning and show the world how bad these written words were, and how it was up to his followers to help him rid the world of such sins and demonic influences. 

And he proved what? That he could get his followers stirred up by hate speech and powerful rhetoric and cause them to do his bidding. And what did it accomplish? Publicity for him, though not the huge outpouring of support he expected.

Were the books that were burned taken out of circulation, or did bookstores order more copies so readers could see for themselves what all the hoopla was about? I say most likely the latter.

There will always be books written that someone will take offense at. That some group of people will say are evil and should be banned. My response to that? Don’t buy them and don’t read them. That’s your choice. It’s someone else’s choice if they want to read them or not. Telling your children they can’t read them when all their friends are…let me know how that works!

Personally, that genre doesn’t appeal to me and I haven’t read them. But I made that choice, not because of their supposed demonic content, but because I prefer different genres. 

I don’t worry that my children and grandchildren might read them. It’s their choice as to their choice of books. I can suggest something I enjoyed, but I can’t tell them what to read or not read. It’s their decision.

Just like it’s your decision on your choice of books in your library. I enjoy the older books from my younger days as much as books by current authors. And I’m sure some people will criticize my taste in certain books as well. Too bad.

I don’t need to be protected from ideas that others think I shouldn’t hear about or read about. I can make my own decisions. And when someone tells us how we shouldn’t ever read this or that because it promotes something bad, what does human nature cause us to do?

We want to investigate for ourselves. To determine what we choose to read and discover why it’s supposed to be so bad. After all, most of the books that are being banned or people are attempting to have banned, so far are all works of fiction.

What I fear more is when those book banners start burning and demanding we ban books of history, nonfiction books talking about the past, describing the lives of those who lived before us, and the contributions they made to society.

Books are written to tell a story; to be enjoyed. In many cases, to be studied in schools and classrooms. To enable learning and expand our minds. It is not the job of one of two people to tell others what they can and cannot read. We are free in this country, at least for now, to make our own decisions about what we read. As I said, if you don’t like a book, don’t read it. But don’t tell me I cannot.

Books are not firewood. And the ideas in them cannot be destroyed by destroying the books.

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