Banning Books and Shifting Blame.

by Trista DiGiuseppi

Aside from our modern-day Harry Potter series, or His Dark Materials, there are numerous books throughout history which have gone through the three B’s:

Bound, Banned, and Burned.

My novel Slaughterhouse Five was actually burned in a furnace by a school janitor in Drake, North Dakota, on instructions from the school committee there, and the school board made public statements about the unwholesomeness of the book.

– Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday.

I remember attending Catholic high school. I was assigned to give a persuasive speech, choosing a topic of controversy. Being that I attended a school of religious affiliation, I had my pick of controversial topics. Topics ranging from women’s reproductive rights, to same-sex marriage, to “there’s no such thing as transubstantiation.” I didn’t stampede toward any of those topics, however.

I switched gears and focused on the topic of slam-dancing. Or as we called it, “moshing.” There is probably a new word for the type of dancing, now, but consider me old enough to toss around “moshing” as the appropriate vernacular. I stood at the front of my speech class and defended my stance on moshing. I backed it up by showing video footage of various bands who spoke on behalf of the “freedom to mosh.” The argument never was, “Moshing is safe. So safe that a baby should do it.” The argument was, “Moshing is dangerous and the crowd knows it. If you choose to go into the mosh pit, then the repercussions are on you.”

Metaphorically, logical thinkers would say, “I will not attend the concert…” vs. “The concert should not exist…”

Reflecting back on the initial subject – banned books – let’s compare notes. School committees, parents, and churches participating in the banning of books believe they are doing so in an attempt to shield society from something inherently evil. From something dangerous. I could explain reasons as to why they perform this deed, but the reasons are various, some established according to a more personal agenda than others.

Banning books on a public level is a violation of liberty, I believe. The Death of Choice. Alongside the Death of Choice, prances the shift of blame. Our society is littered with shifting blame. Someone murders their children and they shift blame to the atrocities of their own childhood, robbing their offspring of the right to live, the choice to thrive and grow, they blame their reasoning on something that no longer tangibly exists; their childhood. The same can be said for banning books, public burning of books, and so forth. The bulk of the reasons that fuel book-banning/burning rest on the shoulders of intangible concepts that theoretically may or may not exist.

Allow me to provide another coming-of-age flashback. As a teenager, some of my favorite bands’ albums were available for sale at Wal-Mart. Often times, the cassette tape covers were altered – censored – in order to be sold within the vicinity. At least they still made it to the shelves, but oh to be the geek who had the “wal-mart” version of Master of Puppets or In Utero. Yikes. This type of censorship was a type of compromise, informing musical artists, “At least we allow you to exist here. Be thankful for that.” Yet, as I recall, Wal-mart had no issues, and still does not, with the sale of firearms. (A tool that poses more risk/danger to a consumer than music. And no, I’m not against the ownership of guns. I’m all for it, in fact. But it is silly to be morally skeptical of musical lyrics, yet be morally enthralled by something that can easily kill a 300 lb animal.)

All a band had to do was drop one F-bomb to get this nasty sticker. The scarlet letter of music.

When will they start applying censors to books in exchange for allowing them to exist on book shelves? I’ve heard there has been a movement to censor some of Mark Twain’s work, given the racist terminology he used to highlight the oppressive times in which his characters (and the writer) lived.

Thus it is with great interest that I blogged on behalf of our nation’s banned books. Censored books. Burned books. Literature that is considered – well let’s just say it – “inappropriate.” (Don’t you just hate that word? I do. But, I wouldn’t dream of censoring it.) Inappropriate for me. For you. For your kids. It’s not your decision. It’s “theirs”, whoever “they” are. And if they could have their way, well, you and I both know book selections, everywhere, would suffer…



50 Banned Books Everyone Should Read.


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