I want to say, “Thank You.”
Seriously – thanks, y’all.
This week there have been a number of people who have read, and contacted me about the things I have posted. There’s been a lot of response to Banned Book Week, and that is, after all, what this was all about.
I generally don’t post every day, but this has been a real pleasure. If you have read these regularly, subscribe to my RSS feed. You’ll see when I post and be involved in the conversation about rights that I have going on semi-regularly here. And if there is something you think I should be writing about, let me know. Tweet at me (@unabridge), or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you think there is some other topic that deserves a week-long marathon, shoot me a note. I’m interested in what you all have to say.
As you know, the First Amendment is kind of a big deal to me. Freedom of expression, in all its ugliness, is precious. And yet, it is not complete. Yes, we have it – but we have it knowing there are responsibilities and consequences. The laws that guarantee that I have this forum to voice, however quietly and unimportantly, my ideas about books or SCOTUS decisions or gun control are the same laws that guarantee that the authors I’ve been writing about can continue to touch the lives of readers today and generations to come. They are the same laws that guarantee Westboro Baptist Church can be as hateful as they want to be in public.
I cannot in good conscience celebrate Banned Books Week without acknowledging that the speech I hate the most has a place in public discourse, too. My theme for the week has been that restricting the ideas in books would be a great detriment to all of us. Giving anybody the power to restrict ideas is dangerous – that’s what leads to banned books. But ideas are tricky things. They come in all varieties – many of which I find detestable. But let me return to what I said about The Giver – when we restrict those things we dislike we are moving toward Sameness. Consider Farenheit 451: were we to restrict those ideas that we found distasteful, then, for all of our good intentions, that book would be about us. Perhaps there are those that are comfortable with that, but I am not in their number. Perhaps we should remember Atticus Finch for a moment. His most quietly heroic moments were defending those who opposed him.
Justice Louis Brandeis famously quipped that perhaps the solution to bad speech is more speech. You see, history is not kind to those who attempt to censor. The moral arc of the universe has not, so far, looked fondly on those who would attempt to quash ideas. To combat those ideas that are evil you must have a better idea, because the problem is ideas can’t be killed. But they can be defeated. So our charge is to champion the better cause.