Monday 02 May 2022
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When I was a kid, the Legion of Decency, an organization dedicated to identifying objectionable content in motion pictures for Catholic audiences, stuck out (or so I thought) to me. They listed films banned because they were morally offensive. In our religious education classes, we were warned that we could suffer the consequences if we saw these films. I don’t remember the penalties, but as soon as the Legion banned a film, we ran to see it.
We devotees have been instructed to steer clear of objectionable content. But for us, it was the sexually explicit content we wanted to see; something racy enough to satisfy a teenager’s spicy appetite, so we set off, with minimal hesitation, down the trail of immorality.
I saw ‘The Moon is Blue’ and others, maybe ‘Outlaw’, that I don’t remember. Censored or not, we survived, uncorrupted. We considered these films as part of our education.
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Now the censorship game has come up again, and I don’t know why. This time, deleting and restricting books is at the top of the list.
Here are some of the current (suggested) banned books I read in my youth: Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath. . . exceptional writing by exceptional authors. What if I hadn’t been able to read them? What if they weren’t in my library? I couldn’t imagine they weren’t there.
I was guided through these books by teachers who understood education, who understood freedom and the path to maturity. They understood the importance of freeing a student to engage in curious thought. Taking away intellectual freedom and affecting creativity was unacceptable. My teachers grasped the power of the mind; the only thing we purely and simply possess. I may have been stunned by James Joyce’s work, but I survived and was better educated for it.
What happens now? A Texas state legislator is targeting materials that “could cause students to experience discomfort, guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of their race or gender.” He wants to remove books from libraries and classrooms if they address issues ranging from transgender identity to critical race theory. What? Repressive censorship? He must be kidding!
The values of integrity, honesty, educational imperative and moral conscience are learned at home. It is the parents who should advise their children to improve their education, and to do so with the help of professional educators (disagreement and discussion acceptable), not to exaggerate politicians in search of political capital in a witch hunt.
Why Are Books About Sexuality, Racism, and American History Dreaded? I would ask those who promote censorship, “What are you afraid of? What are your problems? »
In 1933, Helen Keller wrote this sentence on censorship: “You may burn my books, but the ideas they contain have seeped through a million channels and will continue to stir other minds.”
Beware of those of you who try to retard the spirit of the young. It can backfire on you.
Dr. Ed Iannuccilli is the author of three popular memoirs, “Growing up Italian; Grandfather’s Fig Tree and Other Stories”, “What Happened to Sunday Dinner” and “My Story Continues: From Neighborhood to College”. NOW he has written his fourth book “A Whole Bunch of 500 Word Stories”.
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