Instead of books, can we ban stupidity?

Don’t worry. One of these days I’ll get back to my pointless blathering. But until then, it’s more about books, authors, and writing.

Tonight, I plan on getting a reaction up about the 4th Annual Festival of Books from my point of view as an outsider with access to the inside. As a host, I helped one author for about two hours while getting a sneak peek at the insides of the festival’s structure. I got to listen to a wonderful author speak, and I learned things about writing that I really hadn’t even considered – a new motivation, really, and a full understanding of what it takes to be an accomplished author. I’ll talk about that later.

For now, I want to welcome everyone to Banned Books Week, a time put aside by the American Library Association to promote and embrace books deemed unworthy of inclusion by a variety of groups.

Never read a banned book? Actually, you most certainly have. Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn. Harry Potter. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. These aren’t just books that straddle the line between fiction and racy art; these are books that are analyzed in schools, supported and held up as the best of the best, the reason that children should learn to read. Most of us have read these books whether or not we wanted to. Because we ought to.

Amazingly, it’s still going on today. I would think that in a country that was built on free speech, one that has created it’s own rules on everything but still holds to the idea that anyone is free to voice his or her opinion, that banning books would have gone the way of the cassette tape. The 8-track. Banning books is the type of thing that happens in a communistic dictatorship, not in the United States.

But it still happens. There are still groups out there who can’t keep their nose out of everyone else’s business. These are the people who feel their value system should dictate someone else’s choices, like we’re all seen as unfit to read anything that might otherwise undermine the status quo or cause our children to think outside of the safety of banal self-help books and right-wing political theory.

Howie Rumberg (AP) wrote a nice article about the ten most challenged books of the 21st century. In it, he describes the reality of fringe groups attempting to pull books from libraries and schools, and how often times these groups can be successful.

Banning books is not something from another era or for science fiction — like Ray Bradbury’s chilling ”Fahrenheit 451” — it’s taking place today. There was a renewed outcry against ”The DaVinci Code” when the film came out this summer. Last year 44 requests to pull a book were successful in the United States, including Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam collection, ”The Things They Carried,” and Nobel winner Toni Morrison’s ”The Bluest Eye.”

So what should we do? We should fight this. Illuminate the moronic notion that some vocal minority is trying to tell your library what to stock. In fact, start requesting that your library holds these banned books, if they don’t already. Every book on the list – organize a group and request each one. Make noise. Challenge the validity of their claims. Insult them, if you have to. After all, they’re doing the same thing right back at you – they’re insulting your ability to make a literary choice, and they’re insulting your freedom to have access to reading material that might change your views on life.

Or in the case of Harry Potter, change your views on magical castles in the middle of England. I mean, they can really undermine a nation’s security.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 25th, 2006