Monday, September 22, 2014

Mightier than the Sword

Happy Banned Book Week!

There's something wrong in a country professing a right to freedom of speech needing to have a week highlighting books that people have attempted to ban. Of course the U.S. isn't the only country that's had its battles with banning, presently or in the past. The Nazis made a whole thing about it, deciding to "purify" their Aryan culture the way they were trying to "purify" their Aryan genes.

We are far from that. Although there was that time in the 60s...

It's easy to let passion get ahead of judgement. (Your message, for example, gets a bit fuzzy when you allow members of the KKK represent your movement).

Per the saying, the pen is mightier than the sword. Honestly, in a sword fight, I think I'd reach for a blade over Bic, and yet if handled correctly, a pen could take down an entire regime. The sword has more immediacy. With the pen, you have to be patient as the ideas that spring from it have to sink in.

Like ink on a page.

Malala Yousafzai, ten tons of bravery packed in a young girl's body, was shot in the head by men terrified of her ideas about women's education and peace. They chose the "sword" because they were scared of her pen. And when asked by Jon Stewart what she would do if confronted again by terrorists...well you listen to what she had to say:

The freedom she's fighting for may not even be won in her lifetime (though I truly hope it is. No woman should have to fear seeking an education). But she's planted the seeds and has been tending to the garden in the hopes that eventually the blooms will come.

Now many of the books on the banned/challenged lists aren't even nearly that important to the social fabric. Their messages aren't quite that earth shattering. They're really not. But what Banned Book Week highlights isn't necessarily the books themselves, but rather that method used far too often of silencing the unsettling. Silence the message that might make people think beyond what we tell them to think. You cut this one for this reason, then you cut that one for that reason, and the next thing you know you have a lovely bonfire and people standing around watching as important questions and ideas go up in smoke.

Banned Book Week is a reminder to take our right to free speech responsibly. It's a responsibility born not only by those speaking, but by those listening. If you don't like what you're hearing, don't try to silence the argument. Offer a better one instead.

For a list of frequently challenged books, click here.