People who want to ban books are a little hard for me to understand. I hear about them and I think "Are your personal beliefs really built on such shaky foundations that they can't be challenged? Are you really so scared of ideas?"
Detect a little self satisfaction in there? Yeah me too. I mean, surely I would never be so weak as to consider banning a book. Surely I'm better than these heathens. Right? Eager to pierce my own smug certainty, I decided that for Banned Book week I would try to find a scenario where things might not be so clear.
There was a case in Fairfax, VA where a religious group tried to get works with an anti-gay message into libraries to counter what they felt was a pro-gay bias. They were rebuffed and quickly cried that their books were being banned. The exact details of the story don't quite fit the typical banning story. These were books that didn't fit the libraries inclusion guidelines for technical reasons like not having at least two positive reviews from reputable sources. Also, not being included in a library's collection is not quite the same as being in it and then being thrown out.
But, details aside, it made me think. Hypothetically speaking, if these anti-gay books did fit the libraries guidelines and were made a part of the collection how would I feel about that? What if I had a gay son or daughter and these were in their school?
Like most writers I'm viscerally against the banning or censoring of books. When the ideals that are being attacked are my own, I'm the first to call wannabe book banners cowards who are terrified of ideas. Repressive ideologues.
But I'm also a huge supporter of gay, lesbian and transgender rights. Pro-gay marriage, pro gays in the military. All of that. I think the kind of crap these anti-gay groups pedal is repugnant and helps create an atmosphere that leads to bullying and self hatred and eventually the rash of suicides we've seen from gay teens.
It's tempting to tell myself that these anti-gay books are different in some essential way from the pro gay books my opposite numbers would like to ban. Anti-gay books abuse teens. They can help create real physical danger. I believe that. But the thing is, I know that people on the opposite side of the argument from me are just as sure that "pro-gay" works irreparably harm kids as I am that "anti-gay" works do the same. Their desire to ban is motivated by feelings as intense and honestly felt as my own. I can disagree with them, I can say I'm right and they're wrong, but I can't deny the sincerity of their beliefs.
So, what to do? Would I work to kick these books out of libraries?
When I think I wouldn't I feel like I'm betraying all those abused gay kids, people who are having a pretty rough time of things right now. When I think I would I feel like a complete hypocrite.
I guess on balance I'd rather feel like a hypocrite but no matter how many ways I work around the idea I just can't get comfortable with it.
What about you all? What would you do in this situation? Can you imagine a situation that would make you a book banner?