Leonard Bates Jr.: What are book signs and burners afraid of?

There are some things you should ask yourself about now.

This means that you students who find yourself living in places where self-appointed guardians of public morals ban books. This includes Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott He wants to imprison librarians who allow students access to novels he considers “pornographic.” and Tennessee, where a preacher in a Nashville suburb had an honest meeting with Goebbels burning book To destroy dangerous texts such as “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”.

It includes Pennsylvania, where it requires one school district now Citizens Panel To sign each purchase of school librarians for books. And, of course, it includes Florida, where Palm Beach County teachers have been ordered to review books in their classroom libraries with a focus on removing references to racism, sexism and other systems of oppression, under New state law Restrict the teaching of these subjects.

Not coincidentally, this – September 18-24 – is the fortieth annual observation of Banned Books Week. This comes in what the weekly publishing house called a time of “new urgency” in the struggle for intellectual freedom. Last year, I reported, the American Library Association Tracking 1,597 individual books They have been challenged or removed from public libraries, schools and universities, the largest number in the 20 years they have been keeping tabs.

So, yes, you should ask yourself a few things.

Ask yourself: What are these people trying to keep you from understanding or feeling? What do they think would happen if the book challenges you, confuses you, proves your sincerity, or just inspires you to see something from another point of view? Why are they so afraid that you might think differently?

Ask yourself: Why are so many books that are challenged or banned are by people of color, LGBTQ authors, or have themes related to race or sexuality? What are the signs and fireplace afraid of being exposed to such things? Is it that you might start asking questions that make them uncomfortable? If so, isn’t that their problem – and not yours?

Ask yourself: Why are so many people who want to ban books from schools the same people who have no problem bringing in guns? They are terrified that the book will put an idea in your head; Why aren’t they afraid that the gun will shoot a bullet there?

Ask yourself: Are you a fragile thing, a piece of human glass that needs sharp edges and hard surfaces for new ideas to roll so it doesn’t break against it? Or are you not smart and capable enough to handle yourself?

Ask yourself: What is the difference between banning books in Iran, Russia, Cuba and other dictatorships and doing it here? Are we supposed to know better?

After all, this is still – it is claimed – a free country. But this freedom is under siege, as vividly attested by new laws alienating teachers, by plundering women’s rights under the largely illegal Supreme Court, by schemes to prevent people of color from voting, by the attack on the US Capitol. And if voting and protesting are acts of resistance, this week confirms that just reading the book is too. In fact, one could argue that each of us has a patriotic duty to make a crazy book banner.

Because here’s the thing: If you can’t read freely, how can you live freely?

Ask yourself this too while you’re at it.

Leonard Bates Jr. is a national columnist for The Miami Herald and a Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary.

Columns of Leonard Bates Jr. | Opinion

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