For September and into October, the path at Umatilla’s Hash Park has been lined with frames of pages of a banned book, “The Story of Ferdinand,” by Monroe Leaf. The display was first arranged as part of a series of activities around “Banned Book Week,” which ran from Sept. 26 to Oct. 2.
The activities were important for several reasons, not the least of which is an effort to raise awareness regarding banned books and the process libraries go through when a book is challenged.
The word “banned” carries plenty of negative connotations and when a book is “challenged” it is “banned” by a library whether it is removed from the library or if it stays. It is then added to a banned book list, where other libraries are warned they may experience a challenge from a local resident.
Banning books in a democracy is simply a bad idea. While every resident has the right to voice a concern regarding the topic of a book, there isn’t much justification to force a local library to remove a book because it happens to offend the sensibilities of a few people.
That doesn’t mean residents should be discouraged from challenging a book. If they feel a book’s themes are controversial or inappropriate, they should voice their concern. Yet in the end if they believe a book is inappropriate, they are under no obligation to read the tome nor even leaf through it.
If there is a concern that a book’s perceived objectionable material will be viewed by children, then each parent can ensure they exercise oversight. To outright ban a book, though, doesn’t hold up when framed against the principals of our great nation
Books, literature, are, at their best, pieces of art that push the boundaries of present-day norms. Good novels and nonfiction allow us an avenue to think of the world — and its people — in different ways than we did before. The enlightened goal is for a book to transform our understanding of people and to give us insight into our own humanity. Sometimes achieving those goals can rub some people wrong. That’s fine. All of us have our own opinions, and we are entitled to them.
But banning books of any kind in our democracy is just a bad idea. That’s why the efforts of those behind the “Banned Book Week” deserve praise for highlighting this important issue.