My thoughts after reading the article from The New York Times on May 7, 2023, “My Book is Horrifying. My Book is a Lifeline. My Book is Banned.”:
One of the touchstones I had as a young man was that if the Nazis or the Soviets put great stock in a tool, then it was probably un-American. The tool of book banning to prevent the “poisoning of minds” with dangerous ideas was a big hit among both Nazis – who banned Jewish authors among others- and the Soviets, who banned Solzynhetzn and other critics of the regime.
Memories of Nazi and Soviet behavior is such ancient history that a generation of paranoid American parents, raised on Law-and-Order SVU and sensationalist local tv news, are way too scared about their own fantasies of their children being harmed than they are thinking about how to actually protect their children from harm.
People have no idea how dangerous they are when they believe it is the role of the government to choose which ideas are safe and which are dangerous. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison must be rolling over in their graves.
A really” dangerous idea” in 19th-century America was that slavery was bad. Another was that women should be able to own property and vote. The control of ideas — which always begins with the fight for sexual purity and protecting the young, invariably spread to dangerous political thought.
Socrates was put on trial for poisoning young minds. I am confident today’s book-banning do-gooders have never read Plato. Many claim to ban books as Christians, yet they do not think about the fact they are giving the government the tools that the Romans used to outlaw the early Christians: the right to determine what thinking is correct and what is dangerous.
The sanitizing of our libraries and schools from offensive and scary thoughts and ideas and the terrorizing of librarians and social studies and English teachers will help to create a nation of narrow, docile, and ultimately clueless children who will be less able to participate in democracy and less willing to defend it when they grow up.
We live in a dangerous time. There were always bad people. But today, it is the good people I am worried the most about. Freedom and liberty are dangerous. Fascism feels much safer. Just don’t call it that. Call it parent-controlled schools and libraries.