“Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate; and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of the work, and the viewpoints of both the author and receiver of information.”
—Intellectual Freedom Manual, 7th ed., American Library Association
As both an avid reader and an ardent defender of the First Amendment, I am ashamed of myself for nearly forgetting Banned Books Week this year. I suppose other things, like the nightmare news about FoxFaith studio and reports about Congress deciding that the Geneva Conventions are something to be followed only when it’s convenient, distracted me. Oh well. Better late than never. Here are some thoughts for this Banned Books Week.
All too often conservatives charge liberals and progressives with being unpatriotic and threatening American values. I for one take strong exception to that accusation. I do not support the current administration, and I oppose a number of general policies of the US government, not because I hate the United States, but because I cherish the ideals enshrined in the Constitution too much to let the right chip away at our fundamental liberties and our freedom.
Freedom includes the right to read and write whatever the hell we want, regardless of whether or not it offends another's sensibilities. That’s the point of the First Amendment. We get to have our ideas and beliefs because we allow others to have their ideas and beliefs (looking at you, religious conservatives). Rather funny that those who point fingers at liberals and progressives are usually the first to try to ban books, ain’t it? Those who would ban books have missed the boat. Censorship is profoundly un-American.
To call attention to our need to defend our First Amendment right to read whatever we want, the American Library Association started Banned Books Week in 1982 and has celebrated it every year since. Check out their list of the 100 most frequently challenged books and find out who made the top-10 for 2005 (Captain Underpants made the list). Consider it a badge of honor to have read even one of these books. Put another one on your list.
So, it may be a bit belated, but here’s a big round of applause for fearless authors and readers everywhere, and a huge shout out to librarians who fight for access to books. Thank you!