Wednesday, September 22, 2004

You read what you want, I'll read what I want

Picked up the hint that Banned Book Week is coming up from Solonor because he's just a book banning kinda guy.

I don't quite grasp the purpose of banning books, just like I don't quite grasp the ongoing fuss and froth about Miss Jackson's 2 second titty. I don't quite know what it is people feel they are protecting their children from. If anything, such an incident is an opportunity to say "Honey, I don't beleive that's the right thing to do. I think it shows a lack of respect for the female body and sends a message about sexual conduct being cheap." Or whatever your point of view is. But, trust me, kids know what breasts look like. The more you hide something, the bigger deal the hidden thing becomes.

My own experience runs like that -- for example, my parents never made a fuss over alcohol. My mom was a bartender, and my dad worked for a beer distributor. If I asked to taste a drink, I was allowed. Usually I hated it. If I wanted to have a drink at a "grown up" party, my mom would fix me a mild -- but alcoholic -- version. I rarely finished them. In highschool, I never went drinking with friends because I had no interest in it. There was no mystery. I had seen people get drunk before and had a low opinion of it. I was legal to drink at 18 but did not celebrate with any alcohol at all. I've been tipsy possibly twice or three times in my life. I've never gotten so drunk I was sick or passed out or could not control what I did. I credit my moderate attitude toward alcohol to my parents, and their open attitude about it.

I read all kinds of books while growing up, often running across books out of my understanding. I had some very good teachers who guided my reading, making suggestions and teaching me about literature. They taught me to pick out the messages in books, and to develop my own judgements by comparing my thoughts to what I was reading. "Protecting" someone from an idea by continuing ignorance of that idea is not protection. It is abuse. It is better by far to discuss the idea and to explain why you disapprove.

Of course, if you don't know why you disapprove, if you are reacting emotionally to propaganda and the assumptions of others, if you haven't examined and thought about something, then, yes, you can find ideas a scary thing.

One idea that I find particularly interesting to discuss is the idea of killing. It is a tenet of our society that killing is wrong. Yet, we send soldiers to war to kill others, because sometimes killing is right. We support the ideas of killing in self defense. Many support the idea of state sponsored killing as a form of punishment for killing. We will watch fictional depictions of killing, and allow children to watch them, as entertainment. No one feels particularly moved to "protect" children from such things, or they seek to "protect" by preventing a child from knowing and discussing it. There is no reason, no thought, applied.

A child is protected with knowledge, not ignorance. Read a banned book, and encourage a child to read and discuss one.

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