I’ve been enjoying the most recent stash of library books that I brought home this weekend. I don’t have a particular rhyme or reason in choosing books. Although I appreciate and enjoy browsing book recommendations, reviews the reading lists of friends, bloggers and commercial outlets, I’m the one who goes to the library, browses the shelves and picks up books from my tried-and-trusted admired authors, chooses books because I am drawn to the color and cover design or pick up the random book that has a title that makes me wonder. True to form, I came home with a jumble of random books – some literary, some pop fiction, some completely unknown to me. I settled on starting out with the second novel in the Ana Lee series by Ian Hamilton. I’m obviously a bit late to the party on this series. The story and the characters quickly enamored me and I was single-mindedly enjoying the book.
As I turned a page, I looked toward the bottom and my eye jumped to a sentence that was blacked out by a thick marker. “Huh. That’s weird.” I thought as I went back to reading. And then I made my way down to the sentence. The short sentence included the word, “piss”. It took a moment for my brain to register that someone was probably offended by this word and decided to censor it in a petty way. “Fine,” I thought, “stupid but fine.” And I kept reading. A couple of pages later, I came across another blacked out sentence. I was able to flip the page and read through the back to decipher what words had been blacked out (sometimes black markers don’t blot everything out, I’ve learned). And then another. And then another. What the hell? Sentences with words such as piss, urine, shit, fuck were censored. Anything that alluded to female sexuality was censored. I could not believe it. Really could not. Who the hell goes through a book and censors it?
By the time I reached the end, besides discovering another author and series that I thoroughly enjoyed on several levels (the writing and plot are smart and well-paced, the characters are multi-ethnic and multicultural which adds another dimension that I appreciate and can relate to, the story progression and setting are thorough and believable and the end leaves you wanting more), I was equally annoyed with the unknown censor. I know that censorship exists, but it has never been a reality in my world. In addition to my annoyance, I was baffled. If you’re a reader who doesn’t like the content of a book, but the damn thing down. If you don’t like some words, skim over them and hit the next sentence, page or chapter. Seriously – you can get the drift without having to read every single word. I, of course, will notify the library about the book vandalism. But, the bigger question to me concerns the ridiculous stupidity that somehow justifies censorship of an item that is publicly circulated.
I was working myself up – as I often do about topics that are unreasonable, unfounded or just plain stupid in my eyes – about the arrogance that this unknown censor possessed in order to determine what others had the right to read and not read. I haven’t come to any sensible conclusions. I sure as hell haven’t created an counter-argument in my head that reasonably supports censorship in any form. I definitely don’t have any profound insight here. But I have a different level of appreciation for the freedom of speech. Yes, I know – quite a leap. This is about as micro a lens as you could possibly apply to the broad idea of the freedom of speech, but maybe that is why it hits close to home to me. The right to read, think, say and write is primordial to my make-up. I can do all of that as I wish. And others deserve to posses the same right. I know that what I say, think, share, read and think may likely not be agreeable in all circles; I’m fairly certain that my conservative, Baptist high school would not appreciate the LGBTQ education and forums that I participate to be brought to their doorstep for instance, but that doesn’t justify any one or entities’ censorship efforts particularly in public forums and materials. That is a 2-way street, I understand. And that lesson has also been driven home this week as the debate about Arizona’s anti-gay, pro-discrimination legislation awaits Gov. Brewer’s signature or veto. I hate what I hear transpiring in this debate; I loathe the ignorance and bigotry that is spouted by the talking heads, politicians and lobbyists in this process and I am infuriated knowing that these hateful and discriminatory views have been proposed to be codified in a state where my son spends some of his time. All that being said, I appreciate that the conversation is occurring. I recognize the value of differing points of views and I believe that it is important for these ideas and values to be explored and discussed.
So, to the unknown censor who will likely never read these words, I feel sorry for you. I pity your ignorance and inability to recognize that you do not possess the authority to determine what others think, say, read, dream of, create or act on.
Rant pau. For now.