I found this picture from my friend allisonfunn on Tumblr. At a rough glance, I can’t tell if this is real, or if this has been Photoshopped onto a blank wall, but it is a great quote for a library. I would love to see this in my library because of how true it is, but that truth hurts, too. Knowledge–and, by association, books–is one of the most dangerous weapons anyone can have, and I find it sad how society reacts to it.
In this country (USA), legislatures are constantly in flux to try and make it easier to buy guns, and they are claiming it’s in accordance to our Second Amendment rights, which states:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
However, we’re still banning books because of subject manner which has been deemed as obscene, such as “sexuality, race, drugs, or social standing.” Now, how can this be? The First Amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
What isn’t as widely know is that there are exceptions to this right. The categorical exclusion of obscenity is defined on Wikipedia as:
“speech to which all the following apply: appeals to the prurient interest, depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. (This is usually applied to more hard-core forms of pornography.)”
This is further defined on Wikipedia as such:
Under the Miller test (which takes its name from Miller v. California ), speech is unprotected if (1) “the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the [subject or work in question], taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest” and (2) “depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, contemporary community standards, sexual conduct defined by the applicable state law” and (3) “the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value”. Some subsidiary components of this rule may permit private possession of obscene materials at one’s home. Additionally, the phrase “appeals to the prurient interest” is limited to appeals to a “shameful or morbid interest in sex”.
According to the American Library Association, some of the top challenged books from 2001 to 2010 include:
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group, violence
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: sexual content, offensive language, unsuited to age group (this was actually banned in my home state, but I read it for an independent study project)
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Reason: racism, offensive language (this was required reading for me)
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit (summer reading list)
- Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Reasons: occult/Satanism, offensive language, violence
- Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
Reasons: anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence
- ttyl, ttfn, l8r g8r, by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group (uh, this is a series written entirely in text speak by teenage girls, how is it not suited to the age group?)
- His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
- Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, violence, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
I know this is not a new subject, nor is it an issue that will go away. What pains me is that the majority of reasons why these books were challenged are the same kinds of subject matter that can be found on nearly any weeknight sitcom or reported on the news. You don’t see us trying to get news stations to stop reporting violence or sitcoms to stop making lewd jokes. Why? Because we can change the television station, but we don’t know how to put down a book.
So, in other words, people in this country are more afraid of exposing children to “controversial topics” in a vessel that is used to teach, than they are of making it easier to buy an apparatus in which its only function is to kill. Books containing violence are banned, but guns which are violent in nature are a constitutional right.
Does that seem right to you?