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22 September 2015

Banned Books Week - 27Sep - 3Oct 2015

Why exactly have a Banned Books Week?  Why have any highlighted/commemorated week/day/moment?  The answer is that these highlighted times are meant to remind us of especially good and bad times, to remember
We need to remember why something was a struggle, how something was overcome, and that some fights are never over.

As Paula Garrett has said in her Perspectives piece today on WNIJ, while we affirm again and again the rights and responsibilities of our free and democratic society -- The United States of America, we still must stay vigilant.  Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was first published in 2007, more than 230 years since the Declaration of Independence, 216 years since the Bill of Rights of Constitution of the United States were ratified, which included the First Amendment right to free speech, etc, and 64 years since the cited Supreme Court decision.  As one can see, the freedom to write and to read continues to be threatened.  Censorship, whether self-inflicted or imposed by others, will continue to be controversial.  We must be forever vigilant if we want to continue a free and democratic United States, with both rights and responsibilities accorded to its citizens.  Almost directly following this airing was a snippet of news from Thailand.  Because of the strict or broad-use of a vague law that prohibits any insults to the Thai monarchy, the local printer of the New York Times Asian edition refused to print the newspaper with the article reporting the king's hospitalization and speculating on what might happen should he die.  Self-censorship for self-preservation in 2015 reminds us again of the courageousness and unity in purpose of our ancestors in defining freedom and rights and then, fighting for them.  We can do no less to remember them each year with commemorations like Banned Books Week.

Speaking of freedom, WNIJ recently aired a different perspective on the founding freedoms as presented by Joe Flynn: the right to one's own opinion.  As I had learned and as Paula Garrett mentioned, with rights come responsibilities.  This is the basis of Joe Flynn's piece.  How do we maintain an opinion in the face of so much evidence to the contrary?  Do we stubbornly maintain our opinion simply because we have a right to have one?  With that right to maintain one's own opinion and the right not to listen to others' opinions, there are responsibilities:
  • the responsibility not to impose one's opinion on others; 
  • the responsibility not to cause harm to others or infringe on others' rights in the process of exercising one's own rights, and 
  • the responsibility (as well as the right) to change that opinion when one is exposed to additional information and experience
Reading helps us keep that last responsibility and right. (Travel, interaction with diverse groups of people and participating in activities like attending concerts and live plays also contribute to the ability to change one's opinion, but that is a topic for a different blog about reading!)  When we stop or do not start reading about different places, different times and people of different backgrounds of our own, we exercise self-censorship of a different nature.  It is not preservation of self, but preservation of an image of self -- pride going before the fall.  That is when we do ourselves as well as our nation a great disservice.  Again, we can do no less than heed the call of Banned Books Week every week. 

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