Boarding up the Windows – Banned Books, Censorship and Unacceptable Parts
There is nothing more injuring to the artist than censorship; and we are all the artist.
Art provides us with a view of ourselves and of the world. Censoring that view is the same as boarding up the windows in your house then wondering why everything is so dark.
With literature being one of the most accessible forms of art, it is where we most commonly find reflections, ideas, and voices that shape the world around us.
I reviewed this year’s banned books list for the themes and reasons they have been banned.
The themes they introduce are prevalent in many forms of media. Sex: it’s everywhere. Racism: it’s a reality. None of the banned books had any information that wasn’t readily experienced in the public sphere.
By keeping these topics from being examined in public spaces, we are essentially choosing to live in the dark.
cen•sor•ship noun the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.
There are two parts to censorship – the examination and the suppression.
During Banned Books Week, we are specifically highlighting books and literature that have been challenged or banned from public spaces, namely schools. But in a broader context, censorship aims at suppressing the unacceptable parts of our lives.
Censorship – suppression – is a way of limiting our vision: our vision of ourselves and our vision of the world we live in. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. And if it doesn’t exist, we don’t need to talk about – or see it in art.
Modern psychology describes the process of suppression thoroughly. The study of human behavior shows that when we suppress anything, it tends to resurface in symbolic, and often more powerful, ways.
Think of suppressed feelings of anger exploding from your core in an insignificant debate over who should do the dishes tonight.
I don’t think it’s out of place for a parent to monitor or regulate what their child is being taught. I think it’s the parents’ responsibility to guide their children’s learning, to talk about what they see in the world and define their family’s personal values.
But banning a particular book from a school’s library doesn’t necessarily change what children are exposed to. And it imposes one parent’s views – or fear – on an entire learning community.
As artists, our goal is to create something beautiful and meaningful in the world.
These artists, the authors of the banned books, chose to create literature that is wrought with the reflections of the world they experienced: filled with joy, challenges, darkness and light.
They expose the unacceptable parts with the audacity to say that – yes, darkness exists. But we will embrace the night with our windows wide open and when the sun rises, we will all see more clearly.
An examined life requires looking at all the parts – especially the darkness – and proclaiming to the world that none of it is unacceptable.
This is radical acceptance.
Don’t suppress your inner artist because therein lies the only hope for beauty and meaning in the world.
What are your thoughts on book censorship and "unacceptable parts"?