As for books, I never had the indignation bestowed upon me of being told what I was and was not allowed to read. These were words, after all, not knives or rattlesnakes. In fact, such a vicious attempt at separating me from my precious books might have developed early combat skills.
The incendiary books I was absorbing actually did end up on a thought crime list. Most of you probably missed the annual celebration at the beginning of this month called Banned Books Week. Since I didn’t know whether I was supposed to burn a book or read it, and since Walmart didn’t designate any special decorations aisle for the event, I marked the occasion by reviewing a partial list that was being passed around the Internet (www.adlerbooks.com/banned.html) of books that have been banned in the United States at some point. A large portion of the list was a reflection of my own childhood reading lists, both school and personal. There are a surprising number of Judy Blume covers on the list. Oh, the horrors of “Blubber”!
In addition to the titles on the list, I suspect that a new subgroup of “obviously banned books” has emerged in our paranoid, Nanny state, political correctness-plagued culture. This long-standing
personal suspicion was recently confirmed in a conversation I had with a teacher. A few of us who grew up around the same time were discussing books on our respective school reading lists. Forward-thinking books that were also intellectual staples of my education came up – “1984,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Brave New World,” “Crime and Punishment” and all things Ayn Rand were brought up. The teacher laughed at the thought of such political dynamite being allowed in today’s classrooms, especially in light of the No Child Left Behind standards requiring the learning level of the class to reflect the ability and potential of the lowest common denominators in the room.
“Can you imagine if books like that were allowed in schools these days?” he asked.
That’s when it hit me, particularly in regards to Orwell’s “1984” and the socially saturated catchphrase, “Big Brother”: Have the worlds described in those books actually caught up with us faster than we thought they would? And in regard to Mr. Brother, how many people who use that phrase have actually read “1984” or even know what the phrase refers to? Is “Big Brother” our real world “Who is John Galt?” in Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”?
I think most of the banned books on that list suffer from a similar and much more harmful form of ignorance. I find it inconceivable that a rational, educated person would read any of the books on that list from cover to cover, understand what it is that they just read and still have the free-thinking, assassinating audacity to call them napalm for young minds. The very thought of words — the most beautiful instigators of deep thought — being seen as harmful as a razor in Halloween candy is unimaginable to me (and I have quite an imagination).
With a never-ending plague of political correctness threatening to destroy every last free-thinking brain cell that hasn’t been preprogrammed to fire in a socially appropriate way, I wonder what the criteria will be for the next class of banned books.
Here’s my best shot at content that will be a strict no-no in the near future:
• Any mention of God or Jesus (unless the author is expressly mocking them).
• Any mention of any other deity (unless the author is using them to expressly mock God or Jesus).
• Any mention of the Constitution, Founding Fathers or anyone else who may have acted in a manner unbefitting of a properly subservient subject.
• A noticeable lack of sexual references and curse words.
• A plot line with “too strong” of a focus on the heterosexual nuclear family unit.
Any combination of the above, of course, will be scandalous to the delicate, easily brainwashed young minds of our future. Am I exaggerating? I hope so. Because if we continue to obsess about lowering the thought level of every classroom to the lowest common denominator and promoting the natural assumption that free thought is dangerous thinking, the next generations will find themselves living in the plot lines of the banned books that were deemed too sensitive for their socially protected eyes.
Christine Whitmarsh is the owner of local writing firm Christine, Ink. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org