04 October 2012

Banned Books Week: I'm Guesting

Cait, from The Hopeful Heroine, is so darling.  Her awesome self asked me if I'd like to be involved with her plans for Banned Book Week, which was a surprise because why would anyone want my opinion on anything?  Once I get started on something, I tend to run everyone else over so, to someone coordinating an event... again I think, why?

Alright so it wasn't all that fired-up dramatic.  I'm just hoping y'all are having an awesome day today and if you aren't, then maybe I made it a little bit better. :)

So we're contemplating the morality behind Banned Books Week (no, I did not bore Cait with that, so you're safe to check out my guest post).  Morality is such a touchy subject because it's so subjective.  On this particular subject, it's two parties who both believe they are right.  One says to ban the books that are "inappropriate" for people of a certain age to read and the other side says to allow the freedom to read.

As a reader, I'm on the side of the latter, though isn't that a bit of a curious statement?  I'm stating "I'm a reader, therefore" as if there's a proven correlation between readers and those who support the freedom to read.  Why can't it be true of the side who challenges books?  People who ban books must have some idea what they're talking about, or else they'd never get anywhere.  So it's a logical assumption that people who challenge books are also readers, and yet that never pops into my head when I think about all the parents that target certain books...  Interesting.

Barry Schwartz gave a talk at TED in February 2009 that talked about our loss of wisdom.  One of his points was about rules, and why rules existed.  I equate parents challenging books as attempting to establish rules about what is acceptable for the masses, and what clearly is not.  Barry Schwartz noted that rules are made to give up responsibility; they're there so you don't have to think.  Moral skills are, as he eloquently puts it, "chipped away by an over reliance on rules...That deprives us of the opportunity to improve and learn from our improvisation."  I think parents are inadvertently putting their children at a disadvantage by hefting responsibility onto institutions like schools and libraries that are already overburdened, just because they can't take the pressure of being responsible for what their child reads.  If I could give parents one bit of advice, it would be to let us -- the children -- figure things out.  Shield us as a child, and we won't be prepared when you're no longer there to protect us.

There are a lot of ugly things in the world, but not addressing something doesn't mean it isn't there.  Banning a book doesn't make children safer.  The ugliness doesn't disappear.  It merely spawns ignorance, and ignorance is an epidemic.  Oppression that results in ignorance only creates massive amounts of conflict and, as John Steinbeck puts it, "repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed."

I'm fascinated by the psychology behind what drives people to become so passionate about something, and there's a little nagging thought that says to me maybe it comes from vulnerability.  Brene Brown, a researcher on vulnerability and shame, noted that people with "courage" -- defined as to tell the story of yourself with your whole heart -- embraced vulnerability, that "what made them vulnerable made them beautiful."  I would label authors as people with courage, because they're putting their hearts into something tangible to be judged by the world.  I would label people who challenge books as those who numb vulnerability.  They attempt to make uncertain, certain; they perfect.  They also pretend that what they're attempting to do doesn't have an negative affect on people.

I'm both hopeful and skeptical of what will come of the seemingly eternal banned books debate.  I cannot imagine a situation where the freedom fighters are silenced, but on the same thought, I realize how dirty desperate people can play.  What I can say with certainty is that I will always love reading books, and I will read them based on what interests me, and not because they are banned, or because they are not.