Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Banning

I just received a note regarding books that are banned in various places around the USA. It’s kind of a “Where’s where” version of Who’s Who, except that, instead of celebrating accomplishments, this one lists the places where stupid people hang out. The list is amazing partly because it is a list of books banned relatively recently—like the 1990s and even more current. And I always assumed that books might be banned in places like Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, but not in places like Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan. All wrong. Howard County. Maryland banned The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  in 1990 because it depicts "graphic violence, mysticism, and gore." A county in Virginia banned The Diary of Anne Frank, because it’s such a downer. Yeah, that holocaust stuff is kind of depressing, huh?

Where the Sidewalk Ends, one of  Shel Silverstein’s brilliant illustrated books, was challenged at the West Milwaukee, Wisconsin school libraries in 1986 because the book "suggests drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for legitimate authority, and rebellion against parents."

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was banned by an administrator in Wisconsin because it is “slanted”—he said, “if there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it?’

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was removed from a locked reference collection at the Boulder, Colorado Public Library in 1988,  where it had been placed because the librarian thought the book espoused a poor philosophy of life. Apparently chocolate (which we all know is one of the five major food groups) was thought by that person to be bad for you. Goes way beyond stupid, that.

One of my favorites was the Canton, Michigan school system's banning Of Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism, in 1987, because "this book details the teachings of the religion of Buddhism in such a way that the reader could very likely embrace its teachings and choose this as his religion." Think of that. Someone writes convincingly on some topic and we need to ban his book. Yeah, let’s show our kids only the stupid books. I should add that he certainly convinced me, so maybe that’s reason enough to ban him.

It’s dispiriting to realize that such stupid people both exist and aren’t themselves banned from places like public libraries as an inherent danger to the principles on which this Nation was founded. They belong in places like Tehran, where the Mullahs not only ban books, but issue death fatwahs against the authors. Maybe we should use part of the Stimulus Package money to issue one-way tickets to the nation’s army of book banners. Send them off to Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Iran, where they can live in caves, join the Afghani Facebook and become “friends’ with Mullah Omar and Osama.  I’m sure they’d all love the place. 

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