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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Censorship

Banned Books Week is here, and has inspired my daily internet browsing a new focus. I've spent the last several hours reading about banned/challenged books and why people feel them to be inappropriate. The writer and American in me are both outraged.

Now, before I continue, I do want to make a quick disclaimer. OBVIOUSLY there are books, movies, shows, and music out there that contain things that are not suited for some people, whether due to age/maturity, beliefs, or any other reason. As a parent, I'm quick to remove things from my child's life if I feel they are inappropriate for him. That's my job as a parent. It is NOT the job of the government to decide what I or anyone else can handle.

The idea of censorship is absolutely ridiculous. Yes, schools do have the responsibility to screen all materials within their walls to ensure they are age appropriate, but that means only that 1st graders should not be reading The Scarlet Letter, and 12th graders should not be reading Dr. Seuss.

I do not understand how people don't realize that banning books actually promotes the ideologies within those books. If you ban a book for, say, racial content, then someone who get their hands on said book will read it and assume there must be some kind of truth to those ideas, for why else would we try to hide it? There is nothing racist about a book that takes place in the 1920s (Such as Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) referring to an African-American as a "colored" person. It's historically accurate.

By the same reasoning, banning of the book "Fahrenheit 451", in which books are outlawed and firemen will burn any home found to contain books, only promotes the idea that we should remove all things that dissent from that which is socially acceptable. All that which is not pure fact is to be disregarded, imagination is smothered. What is the purpose of banning this book? I firmly believe that banning it only encourages the idea that there is some truth to be found within the text.

Isn't the purpose of the rating scales created for movies, music, and video games to warn us that there may be content unsuited for certain people? If you have young children, and see a movie come out that's rated PG-13, would you not at least screen it before letting your children watch it? Most parents will say yes, they would. Why? Because there may be sexuality, violence, gore, nudity, or any other manner of things that a young child is not ready to be exposed to. As a parent, it's our DUTY to do such. This is not censorship. This is merely providing a safe environment for our children. When my son, and any other children I may have, are old enough and mature enough to make such decisions for himself/themselves, I will strongly encourage them to do so.

I look back at how my parents raised me. They were strict. Ratings of movies were firmly regarded as being the "rule" UNLESS my parents had seen the movie already and decided that my siblings and I were mature enough to watch it without negative effect. That is how I intend to raise my children. And once they are old enough that I can allow them to watch movies without concern for their mental well-being, I will also allow them to read whatever they desire. Why? Because a person who is old enough to watch a movie about (for instance) a serial killer without nightmares, mature enough to keep fiction separate from reality, is also old enough and mature enough to close a book or turn off a movie if they find the content ill-suited for themselves.

I am a very open-minded person. I do not see the world as polar; black and white. There is much in-between, and I am rarely phased by anything I see or read in the world of fiction. However, occasionally, I do stumble upon a book that disturbs me in some way. I cease reading it, and find something more suited to myself. However, I do not by any means condemn others who read it, or feel that books should be removed from shelves just because I didn't like them. What on earth, or in the Constitution, gives me that right? I don't have that right. I have control over my own home, what goes on inside it, and even that right I do not fully exercise. Why? Because I am not the only adult living in this house, and as long as the others in my home respect my wish that my child not yet be exposed to certain things, I do not have the right to control another adult's viewing/reading/listening habits. I'm lucky enough to live only with people who share the ideals about what is age appropriate for my 18 month old, so there have been no issues. Everyone is happy to go into another room, or record something to watch after 730, when my son is in bed and it's no longer an issue.

This is America. The land of the free. Let's start acting like it people.