I love: Convenience.
I can write anytime, anywhere, if I have my computer and a few minutes to myself. At Exjob, I used to write at lunch. Of course, this meant lugging my computer back and forth each day. My big Vista laptop was heavy. I’ve since gotten a smaller machine that, while still giving me full-size functionality, travels much better.
If I don’t have a computer handy, I can still write. As a kid, I wrote constantly, in a notebook with a regular ballpoint pen. I didn’t like pencils because they wore down, and it wasn’t always convenient to sharpen them. Usually all I had was the notebook, with the pen stuck in the spirals.
Now I carry a little diary in my usually-oversized purse, in which I may note useable items for later inclusion in some project or other. It also serves as a repository for passing thoughts or observations.
I skimped on this, because the hate part is more important today.
I hate: censorship.
I really, really hate it.
The American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week each year to enlighten people about the evils of censorship. Read about the topic in this Wikipedia entry. Although it covers most types, I’m mostly concerned with attempts to block free expression of ideas and concepts, particularly in literature.
There are two reasons this bugs me. First, it hinders study of materials that may be objectionable, but are valuable in learning about cultures, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, history, literature, and art.
Regardless of a regime’s attempts to suppress information, it gets out somehow. Either there are subversive publications, or eventually something is overlooked and the information is found in the ruins.
Second, it forces viewpoints on people who may not share them.
As I type this, a commercial for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando just played on the TV. (Yes I’m going. No, I don’t know when but I’m going.) In 2006, a woman in Georgia tried to get the Harry Potter books banned in her children’s school district, on the grounds that it promoted the Wiccan religion and tried to teach kids witchcraft. She never actually read the books. I will not dignify her by repeating her name—I’ll just call her Sourpuss.
If she was here, and I thought she’d listen, I’d like to point out a few things.
If you don’t read the material in question, you cannot form an educated opinion on it.
Sourpuss’ campaign against the Harry Potter series lost credibility because she had no idea what the books were even about. She had no understanding of theme, character motivation or context, which she would have had if she read them.
I’m not saying she had to, but an intelligent person who is wondering if something may be objectionable would most likely check it out. There is simply no other way to know for certain.
It reminded me of the flap over the film version of The Last Temptation of Christ, which included a scene where Jesus makes love to his wife. Protesters seized on this as a sacrilege. Of course, as I tend to do exactly the opposite of what people say I should, it made me wild to see it.
The film and the book it’s from are about the duality of Christ’s divinity and his humanity. The scene in question takes place while he is dying on the cross, visualizing the ordinary human life he could have had were he not the Son of God. This includes a childhood, marriage (with sex), a family, and finally an ordinary death in bed like a normal person.
Context is fun!
Just because you believe something doesn’t mean that I can, do, and should believe it also.
By insisting that no one should read a book she objected to, Sourpuss was pushing her beliefs on everyone else. If she didn’t want her kids to read it, and it were being taught in class, perhaps an alternative could have been set up so they could still get credit for an assignment.
I would probably appreciate someone pointing out a bad influence on my kids (if I had any). But it’s up to me to decide if intervention is warranted.
Let’s also suppose I and my family were Wiccan. I could argue that she was defaming my religion. If you know anything about Wicca, which obviously Sourpuss does not, it is not in any way black magic or evil.
So I ask, why is the religion or belief of the person attempting to censor more important than mine? And what if the document she was attempting to remove was actually historical in nature? Suppose Sourpuss was a neo-Nazi and she was objecting to a class reading The Diary of Anne Frank?
Force is not the way to convince anyone of anything.
Making people do things your way only fosters resentment. People don’t like to be told what they should or should not do.
If you truly have an objection to certain materials, try to do these four things:
- Learn more about it. Your impression of the material may be completely off-base, especially if it’s based on something someone else told you.
- Use reliable sources to back up your arguments. Don’t go into a school board meeting shrilling something you got off anythingidontbelieveinisevil.com.
- Realize that the world does not revolve around you and your opinion. There are others who may enjoy the book you dislike. Your rights don’t trump theirs.
- Try to seek alternatives and work them out with the people involved. Perhaps there are better ways to satisfy everyone’s concerns, but you’ll never know if you go charging in.
If you can’t change people’s minds, perhaps it’s better to simply let it go. I’ve always believed we have brains for a reason, so we can figure things out on our own.
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