It is Time to Codify that No Book Shall Ever Be Banned in the United States
Yesterday, in an Election Day victory that shot hope through hearts all over the country, Ohio voters approved Ohio Issue 1, which will enshrine in the state’s constitution a woman’s right to choose. In a state that leans conservative, 57% said, “Excuse me, but — no — you can’t fuck with our rights.” It is a sad but shining example of just how on guard we all must be in modern America, alert to never again take for granted the social progress of the last century.
These years — from one man’s descent on his golden escalator to our nation’s descent into nascent fascism— have shown us that so much of what we have accepted as general social customs (like, er, presidential debates and the peaceful transfer of power), irrevocable rights, and majority-held cultural beliefs need, in fact, be spelled out and made law. Apparently too many of our fellow citizens missed civics class and don’t actually understand the very promise of America as a free and democratic country.
Primary among these beliefs is this: books are sources of knowledge, wisdom, and culture. They are written documents — on paper and now screen — that communicate through space and time, from one human to another. All books have the right to exist and be read. All readers have the right to access them. It is time to codify this belief into law, one that says no book shall ever be banned in the United States of America. It is the most obvious thing in the world, but it’s a shared agreement (“law”) we sorely need in place.
The data on book banning in the U.S. is astounding. A recent Washington Post report detailed a new threat to librarians: jail time — in seven states — for lending a banned book. (Who knew librarians would turn into the rebels on our time?) The American Library Association recently reported 695 censorship attempts to library materials, in the first six months of 2023, and “the vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.” USA Today reported last month that a record 2,571 titles were targeted for censorship in 2022. What utter nonsense.
I have been re-reading Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, part of my personal journey to “unsubscribe” and re-balance all things digital with so…