Here we are in 2022 still talking about banning books. Sometimes I shake my head at the backward motion of humanity as it strives to move, I’m not going to say foreword, because that implies that there is an actual direction we’re moving in, but perhaps we’re striving to move beyond ourselves.
We’re inherently conservative as a species with just enough progressiveness to push us along beyond our last milestones but not enough to rip the connective tissues that tends to bind us all together.
How reluctant am I to write that last line?
I don’t always want to be this connected to others of my species and sometimes with my own family. I’ve always thought it the curse of the curious to live in a world where people around you, from parents to pastors to teachers, can work so hard to squash that purity of spirit that seeks to understand and then to understand more.
When you ban books, you tell curious little kids like I once was that there is some string of knowing hidden away that I need to seek out. You don’t really stamp out ideas so much as incentivize or gamify them.
I always marvel at the economic response to banning books or cancel culture, which, I might add, was practiced strongly by the evangelical religion I grew up in. They canceled anything and everything they considered to be of the world or secular.
The list of banned things got so long I couldn’t keep track of them. But the particularly heinous ones caught my attention, because I understood that if they’re that dangerous, then understanding it was a matter of survival.
I sought out every banned book I could when I discovered reading. I poured over song lyrics from bands that were expressly forbidden and played albums backward to try to figure out what the devil really sounded like. I watched movies that were prohibited and asked questions of adults who were more inclined to be friendly than threatening, even if they weren’t very forthcoming.
My point is that banning things is more likely to make people curious, and we do it because we’re inherently conservative as a species. This is probably a survival mechanism. I understand the premise and the machinery that makes us grind away at our existence as a species through the slow push and pull of the binary machine that is striving in a non-binary world that would pull us in many different directions.
And yet here we are, just trying to move past ourselves.