Thursday, July 3, 2014
Censorship and Free Speech - Inspiration Thursday
"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to lets its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." - John F. Kennedy
I read a book last year about true stories of censorship battles in libraries in our contemporary times. It was amazing. And shocking. And bewildering. And inspiring. And it makes me grateful for librarians and libraries and anyone who encourages the free exchange of ideas--whether they agree with them or not--because it is the right thing to do. Freedom of speech is worth protecting and fighting for.
Ideas are powerful. Books, articles, essays and the like are powerful tools for spreading these ideas. They can be used for both good and evil. I can totally understand why some might think we'd be better off without some of particular titles. There are some even I can feel the world would be better without.
I strongly disagree with some of the books we have at the library, such as The White Man's Bible. Others I know are culturally insensitive, such as Little Black Sambo. Some books are so ghastly with photographs of war, lynchings, and other atrocities as to make me physically recoil from them. Yet, these things are part of our human experience. War is ghastly. Bigotry is real and still alive today despite our ongoing efforts to stamp it out. And we should know about that. We can't be the solution to the problem if we can't see it, if we don't know.
I've always felt that just reading, hearing, or learning about something does not imply agreement with the ideas shared. I think that until we can hear points of view that are not our own and make civil counterarguments if necessary we will not progress and grow and learn to share this world in all its wondrous and bizarre diversity. We have to be willing to try and understand each other--where we're coming for, why we believe what we believe. I can remember attending a rally a couple years ago for a cause very near to my heart. In talking with one of my "opponents," if you will, I started to see that it was very dear to her too in a completely different way. What she said made me see why she was fighting for the other side. It didn't change my mind, but it made her a real human and not some horrible person trying to ruin what I hold so dear. I think that understanding the "other side," is one of the best things we can do. Without that things get so polarized and its hard to reach any sort of compromise.
It is certainly hard to support someone's right to free speech when what they say runs counter to the moral compass within each of us. Still, I think its the right thing to do. We must speak up for the truths we each hold in our hearts. I want to have the right to say my piece and so should everyone--even if their piece conflicts with mine. We've got to find our common ground and the ability to be respectful to those we disagree with. For me this is not pandering. This is not selling out. This is learning to follow the golden rule. This is how we're going to learn to co-exist on this big, beautiful planet.