It’s been in the news lately that some communities, in keeping with the current fascist trends, are starting to ban books. One of the plays in the Nazi book was to burn them, followed soon after by destroying the people who read them. Ideas are, by their very nature, dangerous things. Trying to destroy them by banning books, however, doesn’t work. The kinds of books being banned are predictable: those that portray races as equal, those that offer understanding and acceptance of those differently gendered or oriented, and books that show the white man caught with his pants down (metaphorically, although in actual life this happens quite often literally as well). Books premised on lies are just fine, but as soon as we get to ideas that make us think, well, we ban and burn.
Book banning is normally presented as protecting the children. Something any attentive parent knows is that children understand a lot more than we think they do. I suspect they realize that books are prohibited because they contain the truth. Nobody bans a book of “harmless” fantasy—books where white men have all the answers and solve all the problems. And when they lose their tempers they start wars, which, of course, the white guys always win. Such stories, based as they are on basic untruths, are fantasy indeed. Our slow move into the new millennium from the growing awareness of the sixties, has shown us the necessity of looking deeper. Expanding beyond the stories white men tell to comfort themselves. Those invested in this narrative are very reluctant, of course, to let it go.
The more we move into the new millennium the more determined we seem to repeat the last one. That one had a pandemic near the beginning and wars and white men only on the front pages. The younger generation, thankfully, by and large doesn’t share these poison biases. They were read to as children. Teachers and other heroes didn’t ban books, but encouraged reading them. Local communities are making a concerted effort to break down learning and then we wonder why the United States has the highest infection rates in the world. If only there were some way to figure out why that might be! Reading books with uncomfortable truths might be a good start. Ideas that can’t stand up to logical challenges may not be the best ones for building a society. Read a book rather than banning it, and see if we all might learn something.