Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Banning and Witch Hunting and Wannabe Veeps, Oh My

Over at the Huffington Post, screenwriter and director Ronald F. Maxwell goes in way deep on a number of issues. Some of them are even related, but all are deeply interesting.
Who would have thought, mere weeks ago, that Americans would need to be concerned with book banning and witch hunting in this day and age? By his precipitous choice of a running mate, Senator John McCain has inadvertently riled some murky Alaskan back-waters. And this is a good thing, because neither book banning nor witch hunting should go unnoticed or unexposed.
But Maxwell’s erudite screed doesn’t just concern itself with Alaskan governor-turned-veep hopeful Sarah Palin. Rather, it touches on a long list of tenuously connected subjects: poet John Milton’s 1644 comments on book burning; witch hunting through the ages and other things. But the core issue here -- the one on which Maxwell hangs all the others -- is Palin’s attempt to ban a book or books unknown at the Wasilla, Alaska, library while Palin was a resident in the town, as well as its mayor:
Perhaps we should be more concerned with the imploding economy or questions of war and peace. Perhaps the banning of books or the hunting of witches are just side issues, whacky anachronisms meant to distract us from what's really important. And after all, in fairness, following the tempest in Wasilla’s teapot no book was actually banned by the then Mayor Palin. It’s an annoyance to have to deal with what we consider to be settled issues. The cancer is in remission we tell ourselves. It's really not a problem. So better to just ignore it. Let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill.
This is an elegant piece of writing and brings up several important issues. Being reminded of Milton’s words were, for me, alone worth the price of admission. “Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature,” Milton wrote, “God’s image, but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.”

Maxwell’s Huffington Post piece is here.



Blogger Barbara said...

And very good timing, too, as this is the start of Banned Books Week.

Though it can seem trivial - oh, we're not banning books, we just don't think this one should be in the children's section, and that one is just smutty, and that one is encouraging children to think it's okay to be gay, and...

And a lot of people believe school and public libraries should remove books that offend them because they are taxpayers, and they don't want radical, militant librarians foisting anything other than "community values" on people who might be vulnerable to changing their minds.

The rhetoric of banned books week sometimes works against itself. The books are challenged, and those challenges are often unsuccessful. But one key case concerning school libraries was partly decided on the fact that the list of books being challenged was not from the community, but was a list circulated by an organized national group that had an agenda.

Anyway ... thanks for the link to the interesting article.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 6:19:00 AM PDT  

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