Sunday, June 14, 2009

Censorship

Do you believe in censorship? I’m adamant when I say I do not. It makes me angry when I think of being told what I can read or not read. If a book offends me I will not read it, but I won’t tell anyone else they can’t.

How dare a few people tell me what’s good or bad for me, or my family? I have been taught right and wrong, and I’m perfectly capable of deciding for myself what is evil.

There are so many wonderful books that have been banned and if they had stayed restricted, we would have missed out on so much. Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Twelfth Night and others by Shakespeare may never have been seen.

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.
Oscar Wilde

So many books show our shame. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou talks about her rape as a child. The book is often banned for sexual content, violent imagery, and vulgar language.

Other books that show society’s shame are Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne just to name a few. All of these books have been banned, and yet they are considered classics today.

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
John Milton

Milton has expressed my feelings very well on censorship. This is such a valuable liberty that we have. Why would anyone want to take it away? My belief on this topic is that you will remain unconcerned until some right you wish to keep is seized from you.

Knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the will and conscience be not defiled.
John Milton

Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.
George Bernard Shaw

Words can make you aware of the wrongs in this world, but if you do not read about them, then you’ll surely learn the hard way when the event happens. I’m a strong opponent against censorship.

Even children’s books are barred because someone thinks their child is being taught to be naughty or about witchcraft. Where are our imaginations? I grew up on Peter Pan, and even that book is not sacred. Some people have tried to remove it from libraries. There are those who look for reasons to remove a book, and often it’s out of fear of the truth.

Those whom books will hurt will not be proof against events. If some books are deemed more baneful and their sale forbid, how, then, with deadlier facts, not dreams of doting men? Events, not books, should be forbid.
Herman Melville

I do believe that not all books are appropriate for everyone, and each individual has the right to decide for themselves what is suitable for them and their families. Small children cannot make these decisions, but once they are on their own they have a right to make their choices.

Okay, folks, what do you think of censorship? Are you for it, or against it? All opinions can be expressed and do have value here.

Until next week, have a good one.

Sandy

33 comments:

Rebecca Royce said...

Sandy,
I couldn't agree with you more. When I was in law school, I had a professor tell us that free speech was designed to protect the speech that you didn't agree with, that you found offensive, because no one would care a hoot about protecting speech everyone liked. But if you don't like what someone says, you have an obligation to fight for their right to say it because who knows, the next time it might be something you're saying that people find offensive.
So, great post Sandy and I agree completely.

J Hali said...

Thanks to Judge Frederick Van Pelt Bryan, Lady Chatterley's Lover rests in a spot on my bookshelf.

I agree with you 100%. Really good post, Sandy.

Anonymous said...

Personally I love a good book ban. The publicity garnered by such stupidity almost guarantees that the book will gain legendary status that way. Once my books are published I think I'll get a secret screen name and lobby for each and every one to be banned!

:)
Gretchen (who couldn't login to her google account from her mac)
www.gretchenjones.com

Sandy said...

Thank you, Rebecca.

I hate smoke more than most people, but I still fight for the right for people to smoke if they want to. It's my perogative to avoid them.

We have to fight for everyone's rights no matter whether we agree with them or not.

Sandy said...

Thank you, Joann. We all fight for the rights we want, but it takes a really big person to fight for everyone's rights.

Sandy said...

LOL Way to go, Gretchen! You're so right about the ban. It only creates discussion, and then we must read it for ourselves.

Thanks, Gretchen. You gave me a different perspective.

Maybe, I should do that with Addiction because I know a lot of people will consider it dirty. Grin.

kt bishop said...

Just do like they do with alcohol and cigarettes-- have a can't touch until you're 18 or 21 label. Destiny Blaine has one on her web site.

Anonymous said...

Banning books when there are so many more things that need their attention?

Sandy said...

Thanks for your comment, K.T.

Have you noticed a ban on cigarettes and alcohol stopping the under 18 group. lol

Sandra Sookoo said...

I agree. Book banning is stupid. If the book offends, don't read it. I come from a religious , conservative family, and I fully suspect once some of my books with sex scenes are published, I'll be the black sheep LOL but I'd hate to see something I've written be banned.

Nice post.

Sandy said...

That's true, Anonymous.

Thanks for stopping by.

Deb Maher said...

Oh Sandy, you've hit a hot spot with a whole lot of us. My first experience with censorship came in high school when the School Board wanted to stop an English teacher from presenting CATCHER IN THE RYE. I swear, every single student in our school read that book, and in record time! I didn't even think it was all that good, but I plowed through it...just to see what the big deal was.

So, as others have pointed out, having one's book banned isn't always a bad thing. Given human nature, it will give an author more readers! :)

BTW, my favorite banned book is THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Great book!

Edie Ramer said...

Sandy, we just had right-wing religious groups in a neighboring library in my county try to ban 3 YA books with homosexual content. As if they're afraid that anyone would read it and turn gay. It was voted down by the library board, but one alderman called the library a porn shop. I hope he gets voted out in the next election.

Kathryn Albright said...

Hi Sandy! Looks like all the commenters are on the same side of the fence. Book banning is right up there with mind control IMO. I prefer to see all sides of an issue--even the sides I don't agree with--in order to make an informed decision. That means being able to read the book myself and make my own decision--not have someone else make it for me.

Anonymous said...

my thought of this is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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and thats how i really feel. Do you agree?

lienaferror said...

Great post, Sandy

Being a parent of an eleven-year-old, it is my responsibility to censor what comes my daughter' way because I am agaisnt censorship. I may not agree with someone's views or use of language but they have the right to express their opinions as long as it is done is a peaceful manner.

That's my opinion.

Liena

Sandy said...

Sandra,

I suspect some people are going to feel the same way about my next book, too.

Thanks for coming by.

Sandy said...

Deb,

Catcher in the Rye was a must read book when I was in high school. Huckberry Finn was one of my favorites,too.

Thanks for stopping by, Deb.

Sandy said...

Edie,

It's amazing what people think will happen if they read a book that is controversial. It makes you wonder if they read the book and thought about what it really was saying.

Thanks, Edie, for your comment.

Sandy said...

Kathryn,

I totally agree with you. I want to read the book and see for myself if I think it's bad.

Thanks for leaving a comment.

Sandy said...

Dear Anonymous,

If I knew what all those x's meant, I would let you know if I agreed or not. I'm going to get hold of you and shave the rest of your hair off. lol Then, you'll be a true egg head. Smile.

Sandy said...

Liena,

I agree with you that children have to be monitored, but that is the parent's job not the librarys, teachers or the schools job.

Thanks for stopping by.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Hey Sandy

Great post! I have 2 words that sum it for me - Free Will!

We've all been gifted with free will, and no one has the right to take that fundamental concept away from us.

Of course, I do agree we need to keep a close watch on our kids, not because we need to 'ban' some stuff from them but because there's something appropriate for every age group and that's what should be respected. For example, I wouldn't dream of letting my 11 yr-old niece fall onto an erotica book yet, though I know it would be pointless to prevent her from reading a Harlequin Presents or Tender. Blaze and Desire, lol, now that too will need to wait a few more years!

Great post, hon!

Hugs

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn)

Sandy said...

Thanks for stopping by, Z. I appreciate your comment.

Hugs,
Sandy

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Sandy,

A very thought-provoking topic. I am against censorship in principle, and yet, I am just as vehemently in favor of more adult guidance for children and young people in their choice of reading material. Some things are not appropriate for children and I would argue that as a society, our age of innocence keeps getting shorter and shorter.

John Updike's RABBIT RUN was thrust into my hands long before I was ready to read about oral sex. Yes, it's a modern classic. But it's an adult classic and I didn't have the frame of reference to realize the act was in the book to show the depths of Harry Angstrom's disconnect from his wife, who was having his child while he was coercing a hooker into this (to me, at that very naive young time in my life) incredibly bizarre sex act.

Was it important for me to read Rabbit Run? Yes. Was it important for me to read it at that point in my life? No.

It doesn't qualify as censorship to me if say a 12 year old has to have parental consent before checking out books with adult content. I have no problem with teenagers reading THE COLOR PURPLE or PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, but why not do it in the context of a reading club where it could be discussed and understood on a level beyond titillation? Or with a parent's knowledge so the themes and issues in the book can be discussed?

Someone asked me once how I raised such bright-eyed children. My answer was "I over-protect them." As a society, we do not adequately protect our kids and sadly, we cannot count on parents to do it all the time. While I'm not about to tell an adult what he/she can read, there needs to be some safeguards in place for young people.

Sandy said...

Emily,
I totally agree with you that the parents are the ones who should help decide what a child reads and there should be safeguards for young people.

I'm against the censorship involved in forbidding anyone to read that book regardless of the age. Books have been burned, even the Bible, for their elements of controversy. I don't agree with censorship because I think the book should be there for when an individual is ready to read it.

When I read The Scarlet Letter in school, I'm sure I missed a lot of the nuances that I would understand today. I'm not familiar with Rabbit's Run, and I'm sorry you were forced to read something like that at a young age. I'm surprised a teacher would recommend a book like that.

Even though parents and teachers do not always protect their kids adequately, I don't believe laws for censorship should be made even to protect the kids. The schools should be able to decide what books they will buy for their libraries.

Again, Emily, I'm sorry for your experience. It has helped to make you feel the way you do.

I'm not familiar with

Chiron said...

Censorship comes in many forms, it seems. Banning books or free speech is wrong, in my opinion. Yet there are those who will use this argument as an excuse to impose themselves on others in offensive ways.

A good example is in your last blog. You mentioned that people were free to speak their minds just 'don't get nasty.' Now first off, to be clear, I agree with your completely. But in my internet experience, that comment in certain groups would be taken as a form of censorship. Seriously, as crazy as it sounds.

I've had experience with one poster who has been repeatedly kicked out of (and then banned from) groups because he refused to 'play nice'. He'd repeatedly push at people, demand they respond to his relentless questioning of their ethics or morals or whatever had riled him up--usually something he'd taken personally which resulted in him picking apart every response in order to turn the tables on someone.

Now the reason I bring this up is because whenever people would say, STOP, he'd cry "Censorship!" He'd usually get around to mentioning the Nazis and the "When they Came for Me there was No One Left to Object" story.

At this point I've learned that the Big Picture is always much bigger than a simple response. I never endorse banning books yet I also recognize that there really needs to be more self-responsibility in this world of ours. Parents need to actually parent their kids and not run around freaking out because the world isn't kid-proof. Artists of all kinds need to recognize their art has an impact on others and take responsibility for that impact. I just read an article by a woman who'd decided she would no longer go on Bill O'Reilly's show because she felt that even if she was disagreeing with him, her presence was lending credibility to his show and his views. She blames him in part for the murder of the abortion doctor in the news because of his virulent attacks--calling the doctor an executioner and getting people stirred up to take action. Censoring him is wrong but then he should be held accountable for the results of his actions, right?

As I said, it's a deep issue and hard to give a snap answer or judgment. Overall though, I do agree, censoring books is wrong.

Whew!

--Chiron O'Keefe
The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

Sandy said...

Chiron,

I believe that people should be accountable for their actions. As far as the woman deciding not to appear on Bill O'Reilly's show that's her perogative, but she's giving up her chance to chastize him for what she believes he caused. My personal opinion is that Bill O'Reilly cannot be held responsible for what someone else does. Otherwise, if I write something in my book and someone goes out and do it, then I'll be held accountable for that person's action. No way do I want that to happen. It's the killer who has to be held responsible for killing the doctor. Or should everyone who believes abortion is wrong be held responsible? Just giving you something to think about, Chiron.

Linda LaRoque said...

Interesting topic, Sandy. I'm against censorship but do believe children's reading should be monitored. If they're old enough and the material is controversial, then parents can discuss with their children why.

When I was in high school, Lady Chatterly's Lover and Catcher in the Rye were banned. Interestingly enough, when my son was in middle school, Catcher in the Rye was on his reading list. He laughed so much while reading it, his older sister decided she needed to read it and then I did too. Never understood why it was banned nor why Lady Chatterly's Lover was, either. Maybe it was just part of the times.

Remember the movie in the 60s or 70s where the government collected all the books and burned them? Can't think of the title.

Linda
www.lindalaroque.com

Chiron said...

Actually, Sandy, while I agree with you in spirit, I still stand by the fact that people need to be accountable for the impact their words and actions have.

The mother who used a MySpace account to humilate a girl took actions that led to the girl's suicide. Obviously the girl herself is to blame for she took the action and killed herself but what led to that action? If a person encourages violence is that not something to be held accountable for? I think words have power and while I must state again, quite emphatically, that I do not believe in censorship, I do believe there is too little accountability these days for the impact words and actions have on others.

The woman I mentioned had actually gone on the show several times. She decided that her actions were in part lending credibility. She didn't blame Bill for actually putting the gun in someone's hand. However, there is such a thing as mob mentality, is there not? Should a person who incites a riot be held responsible if his or her actions lead to violence? If a child is raised to believe violence against others is okay, for example, is the parent partially responsible if the child is violent?

To answer the question, no, I don't think all people holding contrary views are responsible for the violent acts of people with similar views. That's a sharp turn away from my point. What I am speaking of is people being responsible for what they say or do. I was a vegetarian for many years. I am against animal testing. However I would never condone violent acts against animal testing facilities or condone even something like throwing paint on another person for wearing a fur coat. On the other hand, if I gave speeches encouraging people to blow up animal labs, then yes, I would have to accept that there's a chance my speech may have condoned and even encouraged this action. Especially if I had a nightly talk show with a huge following.


Thanks for giving me something to think about. Hope I gave you something to consider too.

--Chiron

EmilyBryan said...

Hi again.

I know we all feel no one should "impose their values" on others, but frankly we do it everyday. As a society, we try to make it difficult for young people to obtain tobacco or alcohol, while these products are readily available to adults. We expect the merchants who sell these items to police who buys them and will even prosecute those who sell to minors.

We count on the corner convenience store clerk to protect our kids from something we have judged they are not ready for. Yet, we can't expect schools and libraries to protect our kid's minds from material they aren't ready for?

I was in a masters program for middle school teachers and it was very disheartening that I couldn't get them to agree that it's a good thing for 12 year olds NOT to have sex. They were very nice people and probably good teachers, but they were scared to death of "imposing their values" on their students.

If responsible adults don't "impose their values" on kids, then believe me, popular culture will.

Sandy said...

Dear Chiron,

You definitely gave me something to think about. In my mind, I blamed the woman for the girl's suicide because she was an adult and didn't act like one. I agree with all you have to say, and I believe we should be accountable for our actions when it's hateful.

Chiron, I don't know what the answer is.

Sandy said...

Emily,

I totally understand what you're talking about and I know the teachers are afraid to do anything and why.

First thing, a teacher tries to impose her ideas on her students and before you know it there's a parent up in arms over it. I've seen it happen. Teachers fear for their jobs, and they need those jobs.

I agree with you, Emily. I would like to see it like it was back when I was a kid, but it won't happen.

Thank you for coming back to me. Both you and Chiron have given me something to think about.