Saturday, October 2, 2010

Banned Books Week

My first memory of Book Banning was back in 8th Grade. I remember someone had talked about the Anarchist's Cookbook and we really had no idea what it was, but what a cool name! Yes, we were the personification of angst. But the idea that some books are 'forbidden' was so intriguing, it sparked our rebellious drive to hunt down said books. Most of these, upon reading, were huge let-down's. Not that they were BAD, they just...weren't BAD.
Fast-forward a decade-and-a-half. My 3 and 6 year old children are attending a local Catholic school and some of the parents are in an uproar over some anti-Christian books about witchcraft. Enter Harry Potter to my world. Once again, my rebellious nature emerges and I decide I need, once again, to find out what these apparently horrific, satanical books are that my peers claim endanger my children's well-being. I easily acquired my copy of "The Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling and decide to read a chapter a night to my children as their bedtime story. If it's so bad, I will now have opened a dialog between us to discuss these issues. By the 4th night and chapter my kids lost interest this was obvious because they would fall asleep uncharacteristically quickly. I, however, did not. I developed the nightly habit of continuing to sit in their room for hours reading, at times until the sun winked snarkily over the horizon mocking the misery of the oncoming, sleep-deprived day. After a week we gave up. They weren't interested at all, and I grew quite impatient with re-reading chapters I had long since surpassed. I recalled not once coming across a single topic that I found inappropriate, offensive, blasphemous, etc.... I discussed the subjects with my kiddo's who both simply acknowledged this was make-believe.
The other parents at the school successfully banished the books and banned any merchandise (backpacks, pencil cases, etc...) From the school grounds. (Darth Vader, for some reason, was included in the writing of this "rule"). Meanwhile a new eclectic shop had opened 2 blocks from the school. In this shop one could buy all sorts of "exotic" items from Aromatherapy to Talismans to Tarot Cards to Runes and books about Celtics or Voodoo. Let's just say, this was NOT a good time for this store to open. I remember wanting to check the shop out about a week after it opened and there was an actual picket line in front. Many of the parents from the school were there. Apparently, rather than dropping the kids off and running to the gym or grocery as normally they would, they decided they would band together and destroy these poor women's dreams by running them out of town. I envisioned the Salem Witch Trials. By the looks I got crossing their line and entering the shop, they envisioned burning me at the stake. The shop was boring. No shrunken heads. No fetuses floating in primordial goo. Just some homemade jewelry, candles, and kitschy cards and books.I think it was after this experience I decided I didn't want to raise my children in such an ignorant, backwards-thinking, closed-minded, hateful community. I honestly felt pity for these people that wasted so many precious hours and days making themselves sound so stupid. Breeding hate over humanity.
It still makes my heart heavy thinking about the shock those children will face when they realize they've been lied to and sheltered from an entire facet of civilization. They will be so lost when they're out of the nest and on their own. The point I'm trying to get out is that censorship is ignorant.
Even if YOU don't like it, share it with your children and explain to them why you disagree. Then listen, you'll be surprised what you'll hear. I promise. And maybe, just maybe, someone's mind will open and their heart will enlighten and you can smile knowing that you've mentored to your children on how to think for themselves. After all, isn't that more powerful than anything else, ever?

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