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You Can’t Ban Freedom of Thought

September 30, 2015


Censorship is a hot-button topic, particularly in our politically correct world. Our concern that any one person might be grievously offended by another’s train of thought has led to extreme compromises of personal liberty and values – all on the off-chance that anything we say or do might somehow besmirch or belittle someone we don’t even know. Such a stilted way of living is fundamentally at odds with humankind.
Humans are the embodiment of curiosity and experimentation. Our lives center on acquiring knowledge, by whatever means are at hand. Failure leads to eventual success. We come to understand each other by learning from the failures (sometimes epic ones) or successes within our relationships. It’s how we build relationships between individuals, cultures and countries.
So what does this have to do with Banned Books Week? Language is how we best express ourselves – our theories, our findings, our hopes, our fears – and the sharing of those things has been through the written word. We come closest to pure communication via words that have been chosen with the utmost care, that reflect as perfectly as possible the exact nuances of meaning the author of that communication intended.
All other forms of creative expression depend on significant input from a receiving individual, leaving the originally desired connection subject to random chance. True, sometimes a visual or auditory offering will resonate an emotional chord buried deep within one’s soul, on a primal level that sophisticated language cannot drill down to. All things do have their limitations.
Were it not for works of fiction – and even some nonfiction – that raise topics or questions well out of our collective comfort zones, humans would discretely sidestep those issues until forced into dealing with them.
Words require us to think. Words that strip us of our misconceptions and prejudices perform a service to us all. We are forced to ponder uncomfortable things such as the darker sides of our natures, or the fallacies of the status quo. In doing so, we can choose to rise above those situations and conditions. We can choose to improve the world, one person at a time.
Ronald Reagan challenged his post-Cold War counterpart to tear down the Berlin Wall. The books that have shocked, shamed, or shaken us likewise challenge us to tear down the walls in our minds and set our greatest asset free: thought.

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