I suppose it sounds like a ridiculous scenario. Perhaps the ashes are a bit much at the end, but how could someone really take it seriously? Well, that’s part of the problem. In Alamogordo, New Mexico back in 2001 a similar scene took place. Led by Pastor Jack Brock a crowd gathered outside Christ Community Church to burn books they’d deemed offensive and a threat to the moral well being of the public and the youth. The youth. In a way, children have always been the greatest chink in any society’s arm. Use them as an excuse, and no individual can stand against the rising tide. Just ask Socrates.
Every year challenges are made, sometimes successfully, regarding the availability of books in libraries. And in order to combat this censorship, the American Libraries Association makes sure to have a commemorative week at the end of every September called Banned Books Week. This is a time to contemplate the fact that books are banned all over the country, to rally against censorship, and make sure that people know the A.L.A., and hopefully other America’s, don’t like hearing about banned literature and book bonfires. As the A.L.A. boldly states in its own Library Bill of Rights, Article 3, "Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment." Should. A bolder word there is not.
The A.L.A.’s objection to censorship goes even farther by helping individuals understand what might constitute challenging a book by providing quick access to this easy to fill out form:
as well as a list of the most commonly banned and challenged works, along with the reasons for said bans and challenges. Like when St. Edmund Campion Secondary School, in Brampton Ontario, Canada banned to Kill a Mockingbird because the novel used the word "nigger;" 1984 getting challenged for being "pro-communist" and containing "sexually explicit matter;" Of Mice and Men containing too much profanity and a dim view of the mentally disabled; Brave New World has too many references to sex and drug use as well as a blatant suicide; James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain is "rife with profanity and explicit sex;" over and over again any use of profane language (A Clockwork Orange), sexual content (Sophie’s Choice),drug use (The Color Purple – which also garnered complaints about homosexuality, rape, "social explicitness," and incest), and anything concerning what can be considered contrary religious ideology: Lord of the Flies, As I Lay Dying (which questions the very existence of our bearded Lord), and anything that admits abortion occurs, are all works that find themselves up for challenge and potential banning.
Now, it would be the height of fascism to tell any one group what to think, which is why a democratic process exists whereby a particular work or group of works (i.e. the satanic Lord of the Rings) can be brought forth to be judged; and of course, not all instances of a book being challenged necessarily result in a novel being banned from a local library. If they were there would be no need for book burnings. As such, with the understanding that most complaints are raised by well meaning parents, like Parents Against Bad Books in Schools (visit them on the web at http://www.pabbis.com/), the A.L.A. wants it to be understood that they freely support the free exchange and expression of ideas in so far as local opinion has not overwhelmed their ability to provide access to said ideas. In other words, the A.L.A.’s stance is that libraries are for the free exchange of ideas, but since libraries are public institutions the A.L.A. is essentially powerless to stop any majority movement from banning a novel. As they say in their handy pre-fab answer sheet, for when challenges arise, "every library has its own policies, which are approved by its board. Our library has adopted the Library Bill of Rights. We also have a mission statement that says our goal is to serve a broad range of community needs." So if the board, which would typically be comprised of locals, decides that a "broad range of community needs" involved keeping Catcher in the Rye off an optional reading list (well played Issaquah, WA) then the library will submit to the community’s will. Like the Library Bill of Rights says, they should challenge censorship.
All in all this sounds like a backdoor to never taking a stance. The A.L.A. claims to support the free exchange of ideas while only readying themselves to combat blatant censorship, when the reality is that most censorship is a subtle manipulative thing. Perhaps they would know this better if a copy of 1984 were on hand. That being said, don’t be that guy who says these things are past tense, they don’t happen around here, "I went to my local library, and I found a copy of X, Y, or Z." The issue may not be in your immediate area, but it is one that affects the whole country.
Censorship has always been a form of social manipulation. Its purpose is typically to stop people from considering concepts that threaten the puppet strings. Under the guise of protecting moral well being and providing political stability centuries have passed in the malignant presence of censorship. Ignorance is the path to subjugation. Since the A.L.A. can’t or won’t – the A.L.A.’s own knowledge of their Milquetoast approach to book banning is evident in the fact their aforementioned answer sheet expressly recommends using the term "freedom of choice" rather than referencing any A.L.A. policy including the Library Bill of Rights – take a hardline stance against book banning, make sure to keep your ears and eyes open. Always remember no one can take away what you’re willing to hold onto... unless they throw you in the fire along with it. The only hope is that it doesn’t get that insane. But don’t worry, that will have been the community’s decision, not the A.L.A.’s.