Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty


Today marks the start of “Banned Books Week” by grassroothawaii
September 27, 2010, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dick Rowland recently sent me this article that he found on Banned Books Week. As soon as I finished reading this column by Todd Kruse, it motivated me to pick up a book and just read. Take a moment to read this article and to appreciate our Founding Fathers:

“Look Mommy-there’s going to be a fire”

By Todd A. Kruse

The annual “Banned Books Week” is upon us with the event set for September 25 through October 2 this year.  The American Library Association describes BBW as –

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“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.”

In the past I have posed the question to my students – “what is the world’s greatest invention?”  to which some might reply the wheel or perhaps the iPod but I would argue that the book as an invention has surpassed even the impact of the wheel on our world.

This week’s column derives its title from a scene in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury where the little girl is holding hands with her mother standing on the sidewalk.  The little girl watches as a fire truck speeds by them then turns to face her mother when she says, “look mommy there’s going TO BE a fire”  – not there IS a fire. In Bradbury’s book he created a future world where today’s “fire fighters” have evolved into “fire starters” with their primary duty being breaking into homes so they can burn banned books in the front yards of homeowners as an example to their neighbors. Wow, now that is what I call a neighborhood watch group!!!

Let me pose a vital question – is there a true public safety and morality concern that would justify banning a certain book? Or would society be better off to simply ignore controversial books instead of bringing attention to them via a challenge or ban?

The list of challenged/banned books is extensive and I would hope readers are surprised by some of the titles which can be found here at this Web link.

Here is a particular book that stands out for me – 1984 by George Orwell which was challenged in Florida in 1981 because it was deemed to be – “pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter.”  I have read 1984 at least twice in my lifetime and drew the same conclusion each time – absolute totalitarian government is not only frightening but is very possible. Pol Pot’s “revolution” (aka “genocide”) in Cambodia where he declared it to be “Year Zero” as he sought to remake society is the kind of despot that Orwell foreshadowed which gives us all another reason to read/re-read this classic text.

Yet another text on the banned list is The Call of the Wild by Jack London which was burned in bon fires during the Nazi Party’s rule of Germany.  I just have to laugh for two reasons – 1.) London’s political views were considered to be “socialist” and of course the Nazi Party’s full name was “National Socialists” so perhaps they should have been kindred spirits.  2.) London’s books (of which I have read several) have the recurring theme of rugged individualism whether the conflict model is man vs. man, man vs. self, or most commonly man vs. nature in his works. So here you have a devout socialist (collectivist) like London almost celebrating individualism that attracted me to his nature stories.

So as you sit by your fireplace curled up to read a book or perhaps doing some bedtime reading to your children tonight please offer a moment of thanks to the Founding Fathers who insisted (because not all of them did) that the Bill of Rights – including our cherished First Amendment – be included in the U.S. Constitution before ratification as the law of the land.

Read on.

____________

Professor Kruse is a native of the Hawkeye State but is an Iowa State University Cyclone despite their failure to give him a full ride football scholarship! A current resident of Minnesota, Kruse is married with two children who enjoy the regular family trips to the Iowa Great Lakes and the family farm in Carroll County, Iowa.

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