Unloading the books...
The The American Library Association (ALA) each year publishes a list of the 10 most challenged books. These books are challenged by people, groups and organizations who do not want anyone to read anything that they believe conflicts or disagrees with what they personally or organizationally believe. Everyone has the right to their own beliefs, but the US Constitution has a clear statement about censorship:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The Bill of Rights
The attempts to ban and censor books, newspapers, magazines, any type of media, has been going on for centuries. The Catholic church was opposed to Guttenberg's printing press because they feared that if everyone learned how to read and get their hands on books easily, they would no longer have control over the serfs, peasants, laity, etc.
With the recent upswing of fundamentalism in many religions, the movement has multiplied a hundred-fold. The ALA has been at the forefront of keeping open the battle against censorship. This week is "Banned Books Week." From the ALA website on "Banned Books Week:"
Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.
No one is declaring that everyone has to read things that they believe are contrary to their personal ethics, morals, or beliefs. If they want to protect their children, parents, etc. from reading certain materials, they need to police this themselves in some way. What the ALA, the Constitution and others are saying is that no one has the right to tell me what not to read. The censorship of any intellectual freedom or discourse is anathema to ensuring that freedom continues for all.
Here is the list of the "Ten Most Challenged" books of 2004. As you'll note, some of them have been around for many years. This is the first year that the Harry Potter books have not been on the list - nor is Tom Sawyer! Have you read any of them?
"The Chocolate War" for sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being unsuited to age group and violence
"Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, offensive language and violence
"Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles, for inaccuracy and political viewpoint
Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, for offensive language and modeling bad behavior
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky, for homosexuality, sexual content and offensive language
"What My Mother Doesn't Know" by Sonya Sones, for sexual content and offensive language
"In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak, for nudity and offensive language
"King & King" by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, for homosexuality
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, for racism, homosexuality, sexual content, offensive language and unsuited to age group
"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, for racism, offensive language and violence
“Don't join the book burners . . . .” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States, 1953–1961