Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Censorship and the Banning of Books

The mother of a student in Menifee, California complained that the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary contained inappropriate material regarding Oral Sex, to which district officials over-reacted a bit, proposing to ban the dictionary from the school's library shelves.

Here is the supposedly offensive definition:

A district official that stoops to removing books from a school library has merely done his job in a manner he believes right and proper, even if only to further enhance his own eminence in the eyes of a deplorably ignorant electorate.

But a community that condones such actions has injured only itself. Students will mature and self-educate and move on. The village, if ignored by a wiser external society, will stagnate and eventually choke to death on its own vitriolic vomit.

Here are some books that have been banned in the United States.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was outlawed in Alabama schools due to "sexually offensive" passages. Adding to this, four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of this book because it is a 'real downer.'

Alice Walker's The Color Purple, where parents and school leaders in Jackson County West Virginia banned the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel due to its sexually and socially explicit nature, in addition to the book's "Troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality."

The Grapes of Wrath, a novel by John Steinbeck. Banned in many places in the US. In the region of California in which it was partially set, it was banned because it made the residents of this region look bad.

Howl a poem by Allen Ginsberg. Copies of the first edition were seized by San Francisco Customs for obscenity in March 1957; after trial, obscenity charges were dismissed.

Lady Chatterley's Lover a novel by D.H. Lawrence. Temporarily banned for obscenity in the U.S. but the ban was lifted in 1959.

Tropic of Cancer a novel by Henry Miller. Banned in the US in the 1930s until the early 1960s, seized by US customs for sexually explicit content and vulgarity. The rest of Miller's work was also banned by the United States

Ulysses by James Joyce. Challenged and temporarily banned in the US for its sexual content. In 1933 the ban was overturned.

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Banned in the Southern States due to its anti-slavery content.

United States-Vietnam Relations: 1945-1967. A government study by Robert McNamara and the United States Department of Defense. Also known as the Pentagon Papers. US President Nixon attempted to suspend publication of classified information. The restraint was lifted by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision.

Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland. Banned in the USA in 1821 for obscenity, then again in 1963. This was the last book ever banned in the USA.

That's just a few. A list of the most often challenged books can be found on a page of The American Library Association.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 25-October 2, 2010 is hailed by the ALA. as Banned Books Week

(BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Banning books, indeed censorship in all its multi-cloaked disguises is inherently damaging (often lethal) to the citizens of any supposedly Free State. Any government eventually will, and must, demand the power to regulate the distribution of information to its subjects.

Thinking individuals should always keep that principle in mind. When a government acts (or seeks to make laws) to suppress the free flow of information on grounds of religion, morality, or simply that it knows "what is best for you" or that it
"NEEDS YOU" -- Watch out!

. . . 'nuff said?

Laughter is God's most soothing balm.
--Gene Chambers

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