‘Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.’George Orwell, 1984.
It would seem George Orwell was a bit off in his apparently mis-classified yet seminal work, 1984. The world he described took a bit longer to come to fruition and perhaps we should reclassify his work as a piece of future history.
Throughout the history of this country—which has prided itself on being the leader of the free world, a shining beacon of openness and inclusiveness, a standard by which all other countries should be judged—we claim to embrace our differences. Calling ourselves a melting pot of cultures and ideas all considered equally open to both discussion and inclusion, we stake our claim to being a free society.
Many of our citizens often point to the 2nd Amendment as a prime example of how we both embrace and enjoy our freedom by prohibiting the government from taking our firearms.
Apparently, that concept of freedom and openness does not extend to ideas. Now we have a significant number of Americans who seek to ban books because they are apparently even more dangerous than guns.
When Bob Dylan sang,
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
-Bob Dylan, The Times They are A’Changin’
I am willing to bet he had no idea how true those lines would still be to this day. Those who seek to criticize what they cannot (or more likely will not) understand merely parade their ignorance and narrow-mindedness to the world.
The list of fifty of the books in the sights of these modern-day zealots follows this article. While I haven’t read them all, I intend to.
‘The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never even become aware that they are oppressed.’George Orwell, 1984.
Perhaps, as a voracious reader all my life stemming from the encouragement of my family and my teachers, I can assuage the angst of those who see banning ideas or depictions in books of the things they fear as a solution with this.
I have read books about Pirates; I did not become a pirate.
I have read books about cannibals; I did not become a cannibal.
I have read books about witches and warlocks; I did not become a warlock or a witch.
I have read books about Nazis; I did not become a Nazi.
I have read books about Roman Gladiators; I did not become a gladiator.
I have read books about Red Sox fans; I did not become a Red Sox fan.
I have read books about bigots; I did not become a bigot.
I have read books about totalitarian governments; I did not become a supporter of totalitarian governments.
I learned something from every single book I have read and it has made me a better human.
Reading a book about that which we do not understand does not force us to become the subject of the book. What it can do is foster understanding so we can be empathetic to those deserving of our empathy and it can inform us to be aware of those who might subvert the freedoms we proclaim to embrace.
Destroying books to stop the spread of the ideas it contains is like building a dam on the beach with sand. Bad ideas or practices die in the light of intelligent and informed decision making.
Banning books that depict alternative lifestyles—lifestyles which may seem alien to us—won’t deter those who live those lives because they are not choices they are examples of the diversity of nature. Trying to suppress them based on some artificial, and often irrational and selective, moral or religious code accomplishes nothing.
It seems to me the overwhelming majority of books these misguided zealots seek to ban concern LGQBT issues. They apparently operate under the erroneous impression that it is reading about homosexuality that turns one into a homosexual. That’s like saying reading about geniuses would make you a genius. (If it did, I would buy them the book to enlighten their perspectives.)
The founding principals of this country are based on freedom of expression. One is free to write or read anything one likes as long as there is no intentional, unlawful, and deliberate harm to another. Misunderstanding those who are LGQBT does not constitute suffering harm. Instead of trying to ban human lifestyles that have existed since the evolution of Homo Sapiens (no pun intended) and a phenomenon that is not unique to humans but exhibited in other creatures as well, we should seek to understand not undermine out of ignorance.
‘The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.’George Orwell, 1984.
Before we reinvigorate Mr. Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a world, we need to let reason and rationality regain dominance in our actions. We need to educate our children in tolerance and understanding. We need to bear in mind that suppression of one group is always a precursor to suppression of many.
All people are created equal (look it up, I read it in a book) and deserve our respect.
“The heresies of heresies was common sense”George Orwell, 1984.
Here is the list of books. https://www.listchallenges.com/top-50-banned-books-in-america. Ironically enough, 1984 did not make the list! My guess is they didn’t read it.
I, for one, will endeavor to read each one and encourage my grandson to do the same when he is ready for such reading. Instead of banning books, we should be putting books in the hands of every child to replace the mindless video gaming with something that can lay the seed for a bright and accepting future.
Those who seek to suppress what they do not understand are cementing their own ignorance and perpetuating the most dangerous of human behaviors.