It’s easy to talk of dangerous weapons these days. Guns, bombs, missiles, chemical weapons, bioweapons, nuclear weapons. Such devices are a frighteningly common part of our shared lexicon.
But it’s easy to forget the most dangerous of all weapons:
No, really. Words have led to brawls. Murder. Duels. War. Revolution. Words have brought down presidents, governments, kings and queens. Whether for good or ill, words have power.
Some people fear that power. They try to ban some words — or collections of words, a/k/a books. They fear the words will give people (especially children or young adults) ideas that they might not otherwise have. Under the guise of protecting the innocents, some folks want to prevent them from making up their own minds.
This is Banned Books Week, a time to remember, and celebrate, the literary and not-so-literary works that have been banned or challenged by those who would “protect” us from ourselves.
Some of those books are quite popular. You might have heard of a few of these:
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
Maybe every book should come with a warning sticker: “Danger! This book might challenge your preconceptions. It might make you question what you’ve been told by people in authority. It might make you wonder about ideas you’ve been taught since you were a child. It’s entirely possible this one book could turn you into a wiser, more compassionate, more thoughtful human being. Read at your own risk!”
Or maybe it’s better to leave all that unspoken. Wouldn’t want to give the people who ban more ammunition, would we?
In honor of Banned Books Week, go do something dangerous: READ!