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30 August 2014 @ 07:57 am
Why censorship is indeed a bad word  
One of my recent FB posts took me to this story about a pastor trying to remove all the "occult" books from the YA collection in a public library: http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/cleveland/news/church-leader-pushing-petition-to-ban-certain-books-at-austin/article_b88981fa-aad3-5011-be18-0f8982188a9c.html. Included in his demands for removal were all vampire books along with a statue of Dobby and a sculpture of The Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. While this is not exactly surprising for anyone who follows censorship challenges, there were some remarks here that floored me. The first one comes early on in the article when the pastor talks about bending a child's character in a positive way. As if a child were a piece of clay that we form and shape to OUR will. Confession: I read gothic romances non-stop in my teens (and even later) and yet my ideas about romance do not center on a Fabio-clone rescuing me from a dark mansion. I read lots of vampire books, too, and have not succumbed (yet?) to blood lust.

The pastor continues, "'I am not saying that the library shouldn’t have information on the occult since it is part of our history, but there is an overwhelming amount and the books appear to be targeting teens,' he said." There are 75 books listed as occult in the library. First, I hardly believe this is overwhelming. Second, what is that about targeting teens? You wish to talk about targeting teens, maybe we need to return to the comment about bending them to your will. Does this pastor think books wait on a shelf for a hapless teen and then pounce?

Moving on. “The word ‘censorship’ is not an ugly word. If you don’t censor what your children see, hear and read, then guess what, your child is going to be spending a lot of time with Pastor Holt later on in life dealing with twisted-up and torn-up lives,” he said. “If you allow your children to digest all of the negativity in the world, then don’t stand there with your hands on your hips wondering where things went wrong. The word ‘no’ is not a bad thing. The word ‘no’ can come from a place of love. It’s our job to protect them, even when it comes to literature and art.”

Censorship IS a bad word. If parents want to help their kids decide what to read, to watch, to listen to, that is fine. It is not censorship. It is parental guidance; it is selection. But when someone comes into a library and wants books removed from the lives of ALL patrons, that is censorship and it is WRONG.

I saw THE GIVER a few weeks ago and was reminded about "precision of language." While I do not wish to invoke a dystopian future where we cannot use words freely (words like LOVE), I do think we need to be precise in the cases of censorship. Attempting to ban books is wrong. I do not care if you call it "protecting delicate readers' sensibilities" or "keeping kids safe," or "upholding morals and values." Taking books away from readers is censorship. Be precise.

ETA: A second article on the banning effort: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/08/25/texas-conservative-christian-seeks-to-ban-books-he-deems-dangerous-from-public-libraries-video/
 
 
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