"Where they have burned books,they will end in burning human beings." Heinrich Heine
"For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.
"As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.
"And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?
"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat." John Milton - 1644
You have all probably heard about the controversy over Sarah Palin's alleged attempt to ban books from the Wasilla Public Library when she first became mayor of that small Alaskan town. The McCain camp has repudiated the rumors, and the list of supposed books under consideration is a blatant hoax. However, there is some truth to the stories, and as we look towards the beginning of the annual Banned Books week, I wanted to turn to this topic for one example of why I don't feel comfortable voting for the Republican ticket this year.
Palin Asked Wasilla Librarian About Censoring Books
As the emerging story seems to indicate, Palin did not have certain books in mind when the topic came up. She asked the librarian, before she took office, how she would respond if Palin, the incoming mayor, asked her to remove books from the collection. The librarian replied that she would not agree to any such requests. Earlier that week, Palin had sent her a letter asking for her resignation, claiming that she felt the librarian would not be sufficiently supportive of the incoming administration.
The problem is not that Palin tried to ban books. She did not. The problem is not that she fired the librarian. She asked for the resignations of a number of other officials as well.
My problem with Palin is that she felt that by disagreeing with the censorship of books in an theoretical sense, the librarian was not being supportive; that she considers acquiescence to the request to ban books to be:
B: Requisite for being a supportive member of the city administration.
More than the theology of her home church, or her myopic God - Guns - Abortion political worldview, the idea that Palin is only comfortable governing with people who will not raise ethical objections to her demands, and one of those demands could conceivably include banning books, Sarah Palin scares me. John McCain is old, and having Sarah Palin one heartbeat from the presidency is troubling. To me, she's a sexy, female version of John Ashcroft, with his greek statuary breast concealing fetish. As a former student of a college where, allegedly, the school president fired the school librarian over similar book-banning issues, this conversation is disturbing. America does not need to be run by moral/intellectual thought police convinced they are doing the will of Jesus.
"Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books ..."-- U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982)
Remember, we're not talking about pulling books from a school library, where, conceivably, there may be some books that are not age-appropriate for an audience of minors. This is the PUBLIC library.
I want to thank Dr. Steven Hake for encouraging his literary students to read:
Candide (seized at one time or another by Customs and the US Post Office for obscenity)
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich (banned in the US)
As well as other titles by Huxley, Hemingway, Hesse, and others that caused Fundie consternation.
For those who are interested, The Independent in the UK ran an excellent series, The Banned Books Series, every week for 25 weeks, starting with a free giveaway of A Clockwork Orange. I have 1-12, and am looking for the rest. It's a beautiful set.
"Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education." - Alfred Whitney