The act of banning books limits freedom

Aditi Lappathi and Eva Shen

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In September 2019, the notoriously heroic, or traitorous (depending on whose side you’re on) whistleblower Edward Snowden published his memoir, Permanent Record. Within a couple of hours of its release, the US government sued Snowden and attempted to take his royalties. Although they couldn’t prevent the book’s publication, Attorney General William Barr immediately sought to obstruct readership (coincidentally, in 1992, Barr launched a surveillance program to monitor the phone calls of innocent Americans).
Whether or not one agrees with Snowden’s original actions, the restrictions on his book are a threat to the values of a better society. The United States prides itself on being a liberty-seeking, freedom-bearing democracy; yet there is no better way to destroy that democracy than by banning books, which are the foundation of every open-minded society.
School districts, parents, and correctional departments are banning books every week. Some books are obviously, but unjustly banned: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas (for its portrayal of black shootings), “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut (for being “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian,” according to a Michigan circuit judge,) “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan (for portraying what the title suggests), and so on. Less expected however, are books such as J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series and “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White.
Most of these books were banned because of their supposed anti-religious messages. For example, the “Harry Potter” series was banned in St. Joseph Catholic School in Massachusetts, for its sorcery-based storyline. Similarly, “Charlotte’s Web” was banned because it depicted animals being able to talk, which was seen as “sacrilegious” and “disrespectful to God” by a parents’ group in Massachusetts in 2006. For a non-secular country, banning books based on religious values is absurd.
Books are banned for non-religious reasons as well. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is banned at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, a detainment center, as well as some schools across the nation. The reason is unclear but it might have to do with the personal thoughts Frank included in the diary that were viewed by some in Michigan as “pornographic.”
In fact, many books are banned for similar reasons to that one. Books are often banned because of their references to sexual, racial, LGBTQ lifestyles, or intense violence.
Despite these reasons for censorship, books, and their information, as well as stories are the foundation of our freedom for information. They are a source of our education, and expose us to new thoughts and viewpoints to deepen our understanding of the world. Without access to books, regardless of how religiously offensive, sexually explicit, and referring to racial themes they might be, people won’t have the choice to gain information, and won’t have the choice to see all sides of the story, good or bad. Without free access to books, this country is no better than a country like North Korea. The restriction of education is the restriction of freedom.
Book banning is equivalent to witch-burning: it is unjustified, disturbing, and detrimental to society. It is one step away from banning internet access to certain websites, and then banning the sending of certain messages. Does this sound familiar?– WeChat with the Chinese Government is restricting users from sending certain information to create a dictatorship under Xi Jinping.
In the end, it’s all about information and its spread and restriction. If we keep this up, it’s only a matter of time before our society mirrors the one in “Fahrenheit 451,” which, ironically, is another book banned in many schools and libraries, banned because it depicts the Bible being banned.