Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week September 27–October 4, 2008

This week is ALA's Banned Books Week and it's pretty exciting on a lot of fronts. Hopefully everyone can locate and attend an event in your area.

Maybe because I'm around a lot of young people and academics, and I take such open mindedness and progressivism for granted, but at first thought I was rather blase about this year's celebration of Banned Books. What I mean here is that I was looking forward to it but thought that "Hey, we've all moved past this crazy McCarthy-esque fear of change and critique and difference". I thought that maybe these books could be celebrated on a literary level and, while they're always already political, I could let political and cultural critique reside in the background. But, alas and alack, the blogosphere delivers.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jessamyn West, posted an exposition that touches on Sarah Palin's purported inclination to stricture thought via banning books at her local library. Of course, there's a lot out there about this now. The usual suspects materialize. Bogus banned books lists appear. Conservative bloggers, like Michelle Malkin, chime in. The next thing I know we've got another brouhaha that would make McCarthy proud. This is some parade yesiree Bob.

I really hope this is an opportunity to consider why certain individuals and groups are so resistant to the type of consideration and critique that banned books (or any other type "text") can offer. What is really at stake when someone wants to ban a book? Is it really "values" or is it something more sinister like a fear of losing power or questioning of identity? Is the fear that operationalizes to ban these books a misguided internal fear of introspection and courage to engage the promise of the unknown?

Maybe we'll all figure it out this week. Regardless, here we go again.

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