Book Bans, Ignorance and Hate

A thought for today: Ignorance and hate comes from being sheltered from the great diversity found in other people of different races, abilities, religions, ideas, and appearances.

I have the greatest respect for teachers, librarians, and authors of all persuasions that have opened the world of new vistas and ideas to my ever-hungry mind. Teachers and librarians promote literacy and open children’s minds to thinking and the wonders of reading and introduce them to critically evaluate the credibility and sources of what they read. Books take us throughout the world and even the universe to experiences we can only have through reading. Once the spark of reading is established in a curious mind, a journey of life-long joy ensues.

A fearful time of xenophobia is once again re-emerging in our country and demanding that children (and indeed everyone) must be protected from reading, hearing, or experiencing anything that could change our mores, established worldview, historical perspective, or challenge our superior self-image. Multiple states across the country are rushing to pass laws to criminally prosecute and imprison our respected teachers and librarians for providing books to children that are viewed as obscene, subversive or otherwise dangerous.

Book bans have always been an effective way to control the beliefs of large segments of the population and when bans are not very effective, there is the bonfire. This brings to mind the Nazis burning thousands of books viewed as subversive to them. Fortunately, most of us have the open internet except for countries that are controlled by dictators. We must always find a way around those who would blind and bind us. There are many reasons for book bans but it is always about control and the belief that by banning something we hate will somehow “protect” our children from “evil” things. A current popular theme is that sexual orientation is a choice and that LGBTQ people will make our children become gay or maybe confused and distressed about themselves. Another popular theme is that we want to teach our preferred version of history and do not want to hear stories about how our country and ancestors dehumanized, suppressed and even murdered people who were not like us. The real tragedy of book bans is that often a few people are extremely agitated about a subject when the vast majority of readers could care less since they believe that if one does not like a book or subject, just don’t read it.

I encourage you to look up the myriad of books that have been banned and even burned over the years and realize that the reason for the banning was often a minor entry in the book about sex, profanity, crude or coarse language, religion, or new or radical ideas and philosophies. Time changes everything and what was once art becomes pornography and later becomes art again. There are some books that are revered, such as the Bible, that are filled with narratives of offensive topics such as murder, rape, adultery, genocide, and horrifically horrible acts that are ignored because of books’ positive spiritual messages.

There is an almost universal agreement that we should carefully protect our children when they are young from malnutrition, injury, and disease and provide a loving, caring, and happy environment for them. Historically, this care came directly from the parents, extended family, and friends. In our modern society, many people rely on others to care for, nurture, and teach their children. In previous decades, extended families were all involved in this task but now it is common particularly in working families, for non-family to be hired or otherwise tasked for specific purposes such as babysitting, daycare, transportation, school and school activities, sports, tutorials, etc. As a result, we have less and less one on one time with our children and we are so busy we rarely even have conversations or meals together. We may have sons and daughters we really do not know with whom we have never consistently communicated since their infancy. Here is where we can make a difference by simply being loving, caring, and supportive parents and helping them prepare for the vicissitudes and joys of life as we allow them to become who they want to be.

Picture of Walter Holder

Walter Holder

Walter D. Holder Jr., M.D., FACS is a semi-retired academic surgical oncologist with decades of patient care experience, medical and surgical teaching, and clinical and basic science research. He loves all things science and has been committed to scientific truth and integrity throughout his life.