Friday, September 26, 2014

Banning or Burning Books


I am not a fan of banning books, nor am I of burning them.  If not for the time and effort put into them by the authors, their creators, but because of the message that the author is attempting to pass onto the readers.  Sure, some stories are created just for enjoyment, no morals to convey, no life lesson to be taught, something to read and have fun reading.  Some stories are a warning, Animal Farm to me screams about not holding your government accountable for its actions, allowing it to gain to much power to be held accountable, and really its all about how money corrupts or taints a government.  

TO my knowledge Animal Farm was never on the challenged/banned list in the United States, which is good, because I never found it an entertaining read (one everyone should take).  Another of Orwell's work was banned for a time, 1984, because it was "pro-communism and sexually explicit".  I found it to be anti-fascism, kind of where we are heading today.  But over the last twenty four years hundreds of books have been banned, and before that several thousand more.  I am focusing on the past twenty four years because these novels have been banned or challenged in communities since I was alive, and I am going to start with my high school.

Starting in 1994 most Stephen King novels were impossible to find at my school.  Actually, all of Mr. King's novels were gone from the shelves.  The "Master of Suspense" apparently was tripping out young adults with some of his more violent and gory work.  But to be fair, if you are looking for blood and guts, King's work is more of a massive mind game, in which he slowly turns the screws tighter.  But there we were, King was banned and removed from the libraries at school because of adult content.  So severe was this event, that when I brought in a few Stephen King novels (The Stand, The Shining, and IT), the teacher took the book from me, and said that I was "too young" to read things like it.  Funny, we later read The Giver, which is also on the banned challenged list.  On a side note, I find it sad that even King himself banned one of his own short stories, Rage, because of many different school shootings that were thought to be inspired by it. 

So, we have King who often finds himself on the ban or challenge list at the school libraries, but there are others, many hundreds even thousands of authors whose works are cut out of the overall picture.  Poor ole Huck Finn is often on the block, actually that novel by Twain usually ranks in the top ten for each decade of books challenged or outright banned because of the words he used.  Forget that the book is satire, forget that it is actually going against what was the social norm for the period, it used the "N-word" over 200 times, therefore it must be banned.  Okay, a brave new world people, I could see banning a  newer book because of that, but the novel itself is over 100 years old.  We could of course edit out the use of the word, but it would loose its effect.  While we are at it, we can remove all traces of slavery as well.  See, while Huck Finn is a satire, it is also a period piece, it speaks to us from an era that is no more, about how screwed up things really were.

I also cringe when I hear about Of Mice and Men being challenged or outright banned.  I die a little inside as I type that the kkk challenged the book because of profanity and the use of the lawd gawds name in vein.  Okay, at this point, I am going to stop, because I need to point out some things to everyone who might read this.  Books are banned because of content, we all can see this and understand this.  Sometimes it is sexual content, which is part of the case with Of Mice and Men, but more often than night it is the words.  Words, those wonderful things that are inanimate objects that can only harm you if you allow them to.  Sure, they can hurt, cause pain, offend, and many things but only after subjected repeatedly to being abused by people using them.  Anyway, so Of Mice and Men makes the list because of potty words. 

Oh look here, come and see, its Lord of the Flies on the banned or challenged list because it asserts that humans are little more than animals.  Really, we are animals, that was just stupid.  Oh, and here is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Wait... It was challenged because it was said to be "pornographic," and that the novel "glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination."  I think we got screwed in the movie version.  Slaughterhouse-Five was actually burned in the US (insert scene from Shawshank of books burning while inmates dance around like naked Indians), apparently it hurt the feelings of the overly fundamentalist religuturds.  I wonder if +HB Lucy Dupre would mind helping me start a kickstarter so we can hand that one out to everyone in WV, and the south so we can offend their sensibilities.  

This one I can actually see being banned when it was first published, like it or not.  A Clockwork Orange wouldn't even be a blip on the radar today, but when it was first published it was super violent, even the movie which was toned down was violent.  But, I am not for banning books, but it is still the type of novel that should be read with caution, I would recommend reading it, because it is written in such a way that it shows just how depraved a human can be, and in our quest to stop them how depraved we become.  But the moral question of the book is what is important, how far are we justified in going to prevent violence?  That is what the author was going for, so he had to show us the worst possible human, just how far we were willing to go to stop the person, and the effects of what we had done.  

But those are all older books.  See in my high school works like The Shining were pulled because of parental abuse, and alcoholism.  The Stand because of language.  It because of pedophilia (I guess ole Pennywise liked the little boys and girls of Derry).  But lets look at a newer series of books.  Harry Potter has been challenged.  Yeah lil' ole Harry Potter got the ban axe dropped on his neck.  Look, I am not a fan of the Potter series, I found it annoying.  The movies were so-so in my book, but Potter is mostly harmless.  So what did Harry do?  Well apparently Harry is not only a bad example, and to make matters worse when he and his friends do break the rules they are rewarded for it.  I guess people are still hung up on John Wayne being the model for a hero, wholly good without a trace of doing anything outside of the lines between good or bad.  There is his use of magick, which is a no-no in the religious circles, and while I do not see it as a problem, the books do tend to be a bit dark.  Yeah, even in the movies it gets deep, but not really horror deep.  Look, the real world is dark many times, horrible things happen, things that are unspeakable, that crush a person's will to even exist.  But why shelter people from everything, at least by reading it in a book, they can see how characters cope and react, which in some way prepares them to cope and react.  Speaking of which, why did I add a series of books that I dislike to this entry, because it was burned.  

I do not care how offensive a book is, it should be available in some way or fashion to be read.  I am not saying that all books should be on a shelf at a public or school library for any random child to pick up.  Some books are very age specific.  Fifty Shades of Grey, as I understand the series, are meant for older readers, not young adults or children.  Stephen King is not meant for children, but in many of his novels children are the main characters, they are the heroes who save the day, just like Harry Potter.  Steinbeck and Twain often channeled the things they observed as wrong at the moment they wrote their works.  Orwell took the things he feared and went to an extreme with them as a warning, the same with Burgess and his A Clockwork Orange.  

Books, like music and movies, are crafted to challenge who we are as people.  They are meant to enlighten and entertain us, to force us to grow as people.  We do not always have to like what we read or see in terms of a book or movie, but I can promise you that you will take something away from it.  Even the books I dislike the most I have taken something away from.  That is something to keep in mind when you start to challenge a book.  Why are you challenging it, is it because it offends you, or is it that the themes and content scares you?  Also, if you have not read these books, you should.