Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Freedom Burning

The 25 author meme I did the other day got my google going. Looking for images to put in it, I happened across The Forbidden Library. It is a site that lists books that have been banned or challenged at some time during their existence out here in Real World. I was astounded at the size of the list. I was even more astounded at some of the of the titles and the reasons for pulling them off the shelves. It would seem that every book has the capability to ruffle someones feathers somewhere.

You could expect the usual huge numbers from countries like the USSR and Nazi Germany. After all, they elevated book burning to a level that would make any good PR man blush in envy. What I was more impressed with were the number of titles pulled from the book shelves of America. I am guessing from just my quick run through, the numbers may be in the hundreds. Randal, my go to Librarian guy could probably fill us in much better than I.

My mom was an assistant children's librarian at the big library in Sanford back in the late 1960s. My mom felt that children should be able to read whatever they wanted to provided their mom and dad were on board with it. Right or wrong, this is how I was raised. I was never held back from anything I wanted to read. Not even "Mad" magazine. So imagine her tirades at home after work because she had to keep some titles out of sight. Or worse, deal with requests for certain books and they were not on the shelves because they had been deemed not only not suitable for children nor suitable for adults. One had to purchase them if they wanted to read them in Sanford. She would often take some of my kid books in to read to the kids. After being dressed down in front of the room full of kids she was reading to, she became so frustrated she quit. She was asked to come back. She told them to pound sand. They were not going to change their policy regarding the books deemed unsuitable.

So, this effort to control the messages and information we have at our disposal goes back centuries and millenniums. Many instances are because of religious intolerance, political intolerance, and often just about as stupid a reason as could come Down the pike. Just under "L" in the "Forbidden Site" is Shel Silverstein's "A Light in the Attic", a very excellent and clever childrens book. It was banned in Minot, ND, because it was felt children would think it was okay to break dishes instead of washing them. And just to show that either side of the political aisle can get their panties in a bunch, Laura Ingalls Wilder's, "Little House on the Prairie" was banned in Sturgis, SD for derogatory depictions of Native Americans. Seems those folks from the Dakotas might just be wound a little tighter than they should be. Must be the lack of trees.

When I hear people whine about how we now live in a World of less freedom, I often consider that what we had many years ago was no better. It boils down to which form of control is most important I guess. Controlling the flow of ideas or the fact we have to take off our shoes before we can board an airplane.

But then I realize that for most part people do not even notice or care about such things. As long as their insular worlds are relatively safe, they have food, clothing, and a roof over their heads, the rest of it is so much bullshit. And this is sad to me to think that it takes crisis or catastrophe to shock ourselves into some kind of awareness of the bigger picture.

Freedom is lost not by tyrants taking it away. Freedom is lost because more often than not we leave Freedom outside in the rain without a lock on it. And it just disappears one day.

Keep it 'tween the Ditches..............

(684 / 3052)

11 comments:

BBC said...

When you try to ban a book all the monkeys want to read it. That is why the bibles of various religions are still here brainwashing them.

I take any offered to me, and then burn them. That's a losing battle of course.

Kulkuri said...

When I first saw the cover for the Shel Silverstein book, I thought maybe it was banned because of the songs that he wrote, some of which are fairly raunchy. But when I saw what the reason for banning was, my reaction was WTF??

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. Sometimes the number isn't all that large, but people are spineless and afraid to offend the self-rightous.

As for trees, lack of, Minot is, but Sturgis is in the Black Hills which were so named because the trees make them look black.

behindblueeyes said...

I was allowed to read whatever I liked too. I'm not sure this was always a good thing because I read some things that sort of messed me up. One I can think of in particular that gave me some ideas that didn't fit in too well with the small town I lived in was The Feminine Mystique.

But still, I think if I had a kid that liked to read like me I would let them read whatever they wanted. What I would do different than my parents (no offense to my parents) is that I would read the books too or at least know what was in it and I would talk to them about it.

MRMacrum said...

BBC - Of course you burn them. Heat is heat. But you do point up an interesting unforseen result of banning books, movies , etc. It does drive up interest. The novel "Peyton Place" had lanquished on shelves for months I understand until it was banned in Boston(?) or someplace where tight asses existed at the time.

Kulkuri - You should visit the site. Some of the reasons for banning or challenging were hilarious.

Yeah I did base my "trees" reference on Minot. Delivered farm equipment there many times when I drovew trucks. Talk about a town that is in the middle of nowhere.

behindblueeyes - My parents often did not filter what I read also. I read "Memoirs of Fanny Hill" at age 12 or so. It was quite the uplifting experience. I will say my mom made that book disappear soon after she found it in my room. She was angry at my dad for leaving it out.

Gary ("Old Dude") said...

show me a person who doesn't read and I will show you an ignorant human being.----knowledge is power, but then don't believe everything you read either---(lol)

Randal Graves said...

Like all great fuckery of the industrial age, indifference can usually be found at the root.

Once upon a time, I heard that Mr. Silverstein used to do cartoons for Playboy. What a horrible role model.

sue said...

hey MR, saw you over at Nikkis again! Those dumbasses are a hoot aren't they!! They just don't have anything to do but bitch and whine, truthfully I think they're all just a tad bit jealous! LOL!!

MRMacrum said...

Old Dude - Problem is being able to read is no barometer for intelligence. Rush can read.

Randal - Yes he did I think. I was always too busy engrossed in the intellectually stimulating articles. But I seem to remember them.

sue - The crowd at Nikki's are just barely brighter than a dull penny for sure. Once in awhile Nikki and I agree, but not since th election. She has taken it personally now.

Demeur said...

I have to laugh. Mom was a librarian as well at one point. Her frends and neighbors would give her the latest controvercial novel which she would read and then comment how dirty it was. In spite of her comments we were permitted to read anything. That's part of education being able to distinguish between good and bad writing and setting your own standards. If it was banned in Boston it's sure to sell good or bad.

Kulkuri said...

Minot is also close the center of the continent. I worked with a guy who had worked there once and he pronounced it "Me-Not" as in me not go back there again.

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?