Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Are You So Afraid Of?

Yesterday was the end of Banned Books Week.

I feel pretty sad because, as busy as I've been, I neglected the big display for my room I had planned this summer.

Books have always held a sacred and special place in my heart.  I am genuinely saddened by people who don't like to read, and I often wonder where all of their thoughts and ideas come from.  I've said before that my parents were never especially political or religious, and I really can't remember even one time where they told me what I should or should not believe.  From early on, I knew that some of the things I felt and believed to be right were not the same views shared by my family or their friends, but I cannot for the life of me remember a time that I was faulted for it.

Books and reading were never denied in my house or in my school, and I grew up surrounded by pages and words and thoughts.  I read everything I could get my greedy little hands on.  Even now, my greatest thrill is the feel of a new book open in my hands.

I have never understood the banning of books because I do not understand the denial of ideas and education.  For parents who challenge books or authors, I ask, "What are you so afraid of?"

Are you afraid of opposing views?

Are you afraid of defending your own views?

Are you afraid that your child will no longer share your views?

Are you afraid that -- maybe, just maybe -- you'll have to reconsider your own beliefs?

If what you believe, or what you've taught your children, is so worthwhile -- so steadfast -- don't you want them to explore other viewpoints?  How do you defend and build your truth if you never investigate what actually makes it true?  An argument that cannot withstand question was never a very valid argument at all.

Are you afraid your child will learn something you don't want him to know?

Are you afraid your child will pick up some bad habit, some swear word, some foul desire?

Are you afraid your child's interest in something will cause you more work?

Unless you're raising your child in a bubble, he probably already does.  The world is a dangerous and dirty place at times, but keeping a book out of his hand won't necessarily keep him clean.  Most of the terrible and dangerous things I learned about in life were certainly not found in a book.

Hypocrisy, adultery, lying, cheating, swearing, racism, bigotry... I saw them everywhere, from the bottom all the way to the top, from the lowly to the holy, from the common to the famous.  I still do.  But it's in books and speeches and interviews and newspapers (paired with open and honest discussion with the adults in my life) that I learned how I felt about those things.  Through those discussions and opportunities, I developed a sharp wit, a moral compass, a strong opinion, and a keen eye.

I said earlier that my greatest thrill is the feel of a new book in my hand, but I think I'd have to amend that.  It has nothing on the moment when a book closes, and I cannot stop thinking about what it said to me.

Books speak, or at least the best ones do, and their voices never go away.  All I ask is that before you silence one, ask yourself, honestly... what am I so afraid of?


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