Many of us have read a banned book.
We may not have known at the time we were reading something so controversial, so inflammatory it pushed someone to seek its removal from public access. To Kill A Mockingbird, The Color Purple and The Lord of the Rings all share the dubious distinction of being considered too much for someone’s mind and soul to withstand. The perversion of the intellect is a great concern of right-minded people and it’s only for the good of the masses that these books are removed.
To protect and serve the greater good, these people say and probably believe. That they are the guardians of society and strive to prevent its slide down this slippery slope into utter chaos and social apocalypse. It would be dogs living with cats, knives being used in jam after spreading butter and worst of all, a mingling of people—any kinds of people.
That’s pretty much what it means to ban a book.
For every book removed from public access, it becomes a brick in a wall built by closed-minded people. Plain and simple, hands-down… a brick held in place by an agenda and/or ignorance. The wall will grow unchecked if we let it, creating small rooms where we’re isolated from anything other than what these people want us to think. These opinions can swing right or left—some don’t want derogatory racial words to be seen while others don’t want people to find out gays and lesbians exist. It doesn’t matter the agenda, the sole purpose of building those walls is to isolate and segregate thought, to herd people into lines of thinking until their minds become narrower and narrower.
I don’t want to live in that prison and I don’t want anyone else to either.
Because freedom from thought is a prison. It’s a dogmatic existence where creativity and expression are choked to death by an iron-clamp around someone’s brain stem. Without the exploration of thought, we become nothing more than a herd of animal, grazing in pastures sowed by others’ agendas and hemmed in by fences built by their wants and needs. Once that fence or that wall is built, it is nearly impossible to tear down.
The greatest warriors we have in this fight are our librarians. They are our white knights, our shock troops, our stalwart and valiant soldiers in the battle for free thought. Free access to literature, any kind of literature, is the battlefield where the war for social control is fought. If someone can control what is fed to a group of people, they, in turn, control the people themselves and that is the battle we wage.
No librarian worth their salt will agree to banning a book. Even if they disagree with its content, it must be there. It must be read, it must be available. Why? Because—as the saying is often echoed—those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And we are always in danger of repeating our mistakes.
Banned and Challenged Books Awareness is key in this fight and we must arm our librarians and our libraries. We have to remember the fights behind us so we can prepare for the fights in the future. As we grow as a society…and we are growing…we have to remember where we’ve been. We have to remember the words we once used as knives to slice down another race’s rights, we have to recall the words we picked up to stone a gay or lesbian who simply wanted to love and be loved, we must never forget the insidious whispers written to condemn entire populations to death because they choose to call God by a different name.
We also need to remember the books others use as bricks for a wall are also the stepping stones for the imagination. We need them to reach the worlds where dragons fly and elves sing. Where a man can love another man and a woman can kiss another woman. We need to show the world will not end if a black man holds a white woman’s hand or if a Japanese family moves in next door. We need to understand why a man in a beard and a turban wears a knife on him at all times and why a man in a flat, black hat and sporting payot and facial hair is hurrying down the sidewalk on a Friday afternoon.
These are our neighbours. Our friends. Our strangers. We need to understand the world around us so we can co-exist without prejudice and condemnation. Familiarity does not breed contempt but rather consideration. And the one true way to reach those understandings, especially if you are in a place where everyone looks and acts the way you do, is through books.
It isn’t enough to fight this fight through words. We need to fight the spread of isolation and ignorance through actions. Donate your books to small, struggling libraries. Lend a hand at book fairs. Pick up the page and hammer it into a scythe to cut down the maze growing up around our youth, isolating them from the world around them. Make their lives…and ours… a better place so we can leave a thriving and cohesive world for those who will follow.
And it all starts by speaking out against the banning of words.
About the Author
Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and was a 2016 LAMBDA finalist with her novel, Murder and Mayhem. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.
She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Yoshi, a grumpy tuxedo cat and Tam, a diabetic black pygmy panther, as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.