It’s a common refrain. Usually accompanied by someone waving around a book they found only after hunting through the adult section of the library in an attempt to find something “bad.”
For folks like this, a restricted library card isn’t enough.
They look for any excuse, claiming it’s “for the children,” to ban books that offend their delicate sensibilities.
And, to answer the question posed at the beginning of the column. Yes, I probably would have let my son read that. Now he’s almost 21 and we go to lunch and for a walk a couple times a month. We go to the museum. And we still talk about books and ideas.
My son is a thoughtful, interesting young man. Part of that is because he, for the most part, was never afraid to express himself growing up. Whether it was the clothes he wanted to wear or sharing an opinion different than mine. He didn’t have to worry that I’d freak out over any question he asked me.
And we could talk about books. In fact, he sometimes recommends books or manga for me to read—and then we discuss it.
There are interesting reads, like Wonder and Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (a manga about pancreatic cancer), that I wouldn’t have read without the recommendation of my son.
That’s the beauty of the written word. Books contain whole worlds. They contain a wealth of ideas. You can become someone else for an hour. It’s possible to consider a completely different way of life from your own. And, if you’re up for the challenge, you might even find concepts that force you to re-evaluate a piece of information you’ve been given. Perhaps you’ll even learn something new about the world—or even learn something new about yourself.
But not if you’re afraid.
If you live in fear, books that don’t align precisely with your preconceived notions are dangerous. When you live in fear that your child will ask you a question that you can’t answer or challenge you on a viewpoint you can’t justify, books become the enemy. When you see your children and the children of others merely as soldiers in your culture war, controlling their information becomes the highest priority.
And you start not only telling your own children (because you certainly wouldn’t talk to them or listen to them or even get to know them) what they can read, but you start demanding that other parents conform to your beliefs. You insist that not only can your own child not read that, but that no one else’s child can read it either.
Because you’re afraid.
And, even worse, you’re afraid that your children might disagree with you if they have access to information. They might develop empathy for the “other” if they can put themselves in the shoes of someone different.
Your fear isn’t a reason to try to control the rest of us.
Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized and award-winning financial writer, podcaster and speaker. She is the chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.