"If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed."
-- Benjamin Franklin, 1730
Banned Book Week is over.
The fight to keep words, thoughts, expressions and ideas free is far from over. It's a battle recognized by the men who crafted the Constitution. They guaranteed Freedom of Speech as one of the basic tenets of America. Those who try to usurp this guarantee may have the best motives in mind. They're free to think what they want, say what they believe, write their opinions and read the opinions of other like-minded individuals. This right only is valid if it extends to everyone, those who agree and those who dissent.
In Sandusky, Red Raven Books & Curiosities marked Banned Book Week by showcasing the books that some sought to squelch. We can't rely totally on the Supreme Court to protect our rights. Diligence on every level, down to the grassroots efforts of people willing to stand up as Ali Thompson of Red Raven did are needed.
Great minds have long contemplated the effects of censorship and have come up with their own takes on it. They were free to share their opinions.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas warned, "Restriction on free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."
Would-be book burners and banners are promoting a dangerous precedent by chipping away at basic freedoms that make America more than a piece of land.
Justice Potter Stewart said "Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime..."
Many of our ancestors came here to escape such regimes.
We should never fear information. Given all the information available on any subject allows us to efficiently sort through and make our personal judgments on any given subject. Some written material may be unsuitable for young minds. The responsibility to restrict this information lies squarely on the shoulders of parents. Using unsuitability for children as a reason to ban a book is ducking the personal responsibility of providing suitable reading for your children. Children would be far better served by encouraging reading.
Retired book publisher Peter S. Jennison admonished, "Children deprived of words become school dropouts; dropouts deprived of hope behave delinquently. Amateur censors blame delinquency on reading immoral books and magazines, when in fact, the inability to read anything is the basic trouble."
Noted conservative Republican and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Clare Booth Luce said, "Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there."
Expecting to coerce or threaten librarians into removing books because of "offensive" material is undermining their very missions -- to freely dispense the written word.
Author Kurt Vonnegut, no stranger to censorship himself, said it well:
"All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let's get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States -- and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!"