by Shelley Macon, Head Editor, INALJ Florida
A couple of weeks ago I was at one of my children’s extracurricular activities. And, as usual, the parents were congregated in one area chatting. Most of these parents are acquaintances, not what I would label “friends.” So, normally the conversation consists of talking about our kids, our kids’ habits, our kids’ hobbies, our kids’ accomplishments, and a smattering of our personal hardships in raising our kids. In an unspoken show of solidarity, we usually scrupulously avoid topics that could cause any sort of heated exchanges or conflict among the parents. But apparently, one parent had been watching the news and seen a story that rocked their world. News that could, potentially, cause the downfall of the entire civilized world.
The government shutdown, you might guess. Wrong. It was even worse. It was the casting of the lead characters in E. L. James Fifty Shades of Grey movie. I know. Earth shattering.
I am not sure what planet this parent had been living on, but this seemed to be their first introduction to this trilogy. So they decided to get the book and see what all the hype was about. I am sure you can imagine the reaction. If not, let me tell you horror, outrage, and righteous indignation were just some of the words that would be an apropos description.
Truthfully, I could care less what people like to read or not. That is personal. None of my business. But, what came next was very much my business. This parent had decided to launch a campaign to have these books pulled from the local library system shelves. What?
At this point, phrases like intellectual freedom, banned books, and censorship are buzzing around my brain like angry hornets. So, I label it what it is – censorship. Well, you would have thought that I questioned their whole moral foundation. The charge of censorship was vehemently denied. They were simply defending children. They did not want their children exposed to that “filth” (their word, not mine). So I countered with the logical, “So, don’t let your kids read it.” I tried to explain that a library is not a parent who decides what is right or good for your children.
Well, I might as well have been talking to a brick wall. I could see the glazed look of inattention coupled with the expression of patient patronization grow on my foe’s face. Knowing this is not the time or place for this “conversation,” I bite my tongue and let it go. But I know this parent. I know this type of person. They will not let it go. They will, with persistence and zealous anger, try to bully their way to achieving their goal. What scares me is that my local library system already caved to this once and pulled these items. They eventually returned them to the shelves, but set an awful precedent in the mean time. I can only imagine the outcry when the movie actually comes out.
The library is a place where freedom of information is king. It is the bastion where the very essence and foundation of our civil liberties is defended and built. As librarians, we need to stand strong in our beliefs and uphold the principle of intellectual freedom, not just during Banned Books Week, but year round. History has shown that censorship of a single book, idea, or piece of art can be the start of a slippery slope on the slide to oppression. It is my hope that we will all just refuse to get on the slide.