In the past nine months at least 1,145 books have been banned by school boards in 26 states, Texas banning the most with Pennsylvania (where I once lived) a close second. Bans in southern and mid-western states dominate. I lived in three of those states and find it hard to comprehend what’s going on. Libraries are being defunded and frustrated librarians are resigning. Parents are outraged on both sides of the issue, disrupting communities, confusing students and teachers. Some areas are not just banning, but burning books just like the Nazis did in the 1930s.
The form of free speech that has educated humans for centuries–books–is being aggressively attacked in a nation that prides itself on civil liberties and freedom of expression. It saddens me. Books are my friends.
While certainly not all books have merit and some are steeped in controversy and disturbing ideology, nevertheless, why have books been singled out as the corrupting culprits when film and radical art do a pretty good job on their own?
As an artist, I understand the history. Even Michelangelo and Manet were censored in their day. The (now beloved) Impressionist, Monet, endured “25 years of censorship, public ridicule and poverty.” Van Gogh, today considered by many a genius, never sold but one painting in his lifetime. Picasso, among the avant-garde artists of his day, was considered degenerate and inappropriate for gallery exhibition.
What about films? Will those parents so quick to ban books ban films the same way? Do they regulate what they and their kids watch to keep out obscene language, violence, torrid story lines, blatant sexuality or misinformation that is so prevalent? Scan through Netflix, or any other film provider, and see how many mindless, negative, frightening, gory themes grace its pages. One cannot get away from the repulsive violence inflicted on film-viewers. Yet we burn books as the offenders.
Why? Is word more powerful than image? As an artist and writer, I love both images and words for their ability to convey ideas. Aren’t ideas what people are really banning when they go after books? But can they? Can you really ban ideas? Isn’t an idea something free to float in or out of consciousness, something we hang onto if it’s inspiring, informative, important, creative, beautiful, witty, clever, edifying?
You can’t kill ideas. They aren’t material. Somehow they manage to rise above hatred, resurrect themselves in the face of destruction. They are courageous. Precious. Eternal. They’ve an everlasting life of their own. So go ahead, you book-destroying-mongers, spin yourselves silly in futile attempts to destroy what can never die.
Artwork: Title lost, oil, approx. 36″ x 36″ $1,175. This was part of a series I did for my exhibition, Let There Be Light, a few years ago. It’s currently hanging in my daughter’s home. It expresses undaunting energy, the electric vibrancy of light conquering darkness.