Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Free speech or death

The young adult novel – “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” – contains a fictional teenage boy in his freshman year in high school tackles tough subjects like rape and homosexuality.

Another YA novel – “Baby Be-bop” – has been condemned by some as explicitly vulgar and anti-Christian.

A battle is brewing in one city over whether the public library should offer books like these. Some have even called for a book-burning.

Personally, I don’t think they should be banned (or burned). And this is why . . .

First a little background on the battle:

Ginny Maziarka of Wisconsin was unhappy with the content of some of the books in the West Bend library. She claimed the public library offered books in the YA genre affirming the gay lifestyle, but it offered no books affirming the heterosexual lifestyle (such as titles written by “ex-gays"). When the board did not heed her suggestion to add those types of books, she appealed to the library board and began blogging about the issue. The local newspaper picked up the dispute. From there, opposition formed and the tensions ignited.

For the complete story of the West Bend, Wis., book battle, click here.

Library fight riles up city, leads to book-burning demand

I see a couple of problems here.

First of all, Maziarka has claimed there aren’t any books affirming the heterosexual lifestyle. But isn’t that what most mainstream fiction is – silent affirmation of the traditional lifestyle?

Popular adult fiction writers like Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult and even Stephen King haven’t – at least in the books I’ve read by them – featured a homosexual protagonist.

If popular YA authors, like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, include a homosexual in their novels, they are minor characters. And other YA authors – Judy Blume quickly comes to mind – have already written (and dare I say beat to death) stories of heterosexual teens coming of age.

Second, Maziarka – who is the mother of four – said she doesn’t want her children exposed to the content in these books. I don’t blame her. This isn’t something I’d want my teenage daughter reading either.

But whose job is it to police that to which our children are exposed? As a God-fearing Christian, I don’t want my daughters to read anything by Phillip Pullman or Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins until they’re spiritually mature enough to cope with the views of those authors, but I’m not going to infringe upon the rights of an atheist or agnostic down the street who may find nothing wrong with those works.

I simply make sure I know what my teen is reading.

I don’t know about the library in West Bend, but I know the library in my hometown offers books from a variety of viewpoints. (If you really want to read a good coming-of-age book, check out “Watching the Tree Limbs” by Mary DeMuth. Excellent stuff.)

Thirdly, where do you draw the line?

“5. And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. 6. And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel.”

Some might call this piece explicit or over the top, but it’s a passage from the Book of Judges in the Bible.

The frightening thing all Americans need to remember is that our culture is always shifting, always moving, and what some now take for granted could eventually be a thing of the past.

Not so long ago, prayer in school was as common as ketchup at McDonalds.

That’s not so anymore.

Not so long ago, it was laughable and absurd to think that a man would be able to marry another man.

That’s not so anymore either.

How long, then, could it be before religious views are villainized to the point where the majority of citizens call for a ban of certain holy texts because they’re explicit or promote “outdated views” or spur threats of internal violence?

It’s an awful thought to consider, but it’s not so far fetched. First amendment rights need to be protected even moreso than Fort Knox, and these books – even the ones that contain passages we may or may not like – are protected, too.


Eva Gallant said...

My husband and I couldn't agree more!
You've stated the case against censorship most eloquently.

KM Wilsher said...

What a heartfelt post, Kat. . .provokes deep thought.

Thank you for bringing this to light!

Anonymous said...

Well written, Kat...Well done indeed.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Excellent argument! When I saw this story, I had the same thought about parental responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point, Kat. Nicely written. The part where you point out the ...not so anymore... really hit home. It's ever changing, that's for sure. Nice post, Kat. Got me thinkin'!

Diane Gallant said...

I think that in general censorship backfires. In addition to bringing more attention to the censored works, it makes it seem as if your own ideas are too weak to compete, and therefore they must be false. It also makes it seem as if the ideas you wish to censor are strong and threatening because they are true. Bad, bad strategy.