Friday, April 14, 2006

Harry Potter, Redux

Harry Potter is under attack again, in Atlanta. As is often the case, the would-be book banner:
hasn't read any of the books in their entirety. She read portions of the books, she said, and was offended by descriptions of demonic activity.

"My personal religious views don't agree with these books," said Mallory, a missionary who moved to Gwinnett about two years ago. "We need for our children to read things that teach good morals. Harry Potter lies, cheats and steals, and there is no accountability. There are better things for our children to be reading."
A couple of thoughts:

First, why do these people always admit to not having read the books they want to ban? Any sixth grader can tell you that context is everything when it comes to evaluating a book, and that it is absolutely impossible to make any intelligent judgement whatsoever about a book without actually reading it. What's next--literally judging books by their covers?

So why do these book banners who admit to not reading the book not realize how stupid they sound? If they honestly can't bring themselves to read all of such horrible, mind-polluting tripe as, say, The Chocolate War, why don't they just lie and say they did? Or buy the Cliff's Notes, since the books they want to ban are often acknowledged classics?

Honestly, they sound so stupid I'm embarrassed for them. Almost.

My second thought is this: I know it's easy to beat up on the person who makes it her mission to ban Harry Potter: "Ha! Look at that, another religious nutcase who wants to ban one of the most beloved books of all time--the book that has inspired more kids to read than any book in history!"

But I think it's worth noting that the Harry Potter books are currently among the country's most frequently challenged books. There is a huge, active, vocal, and very organized faction of people who wants these books removed from schools and libraries (but, alas, they're not so active that they can take the time to read the books themselves).

The thing is, there's this unspoken idea that if someone takes the time to challenge a book, they must have a point. There must be something in the targeted book that really is objectionable, and the objection should be accomodated somehow. And if a book gets someone that upset, or a whole group of people upset, well, why not just remove the book, and replace it with books that have nothing objectionable whatsoever to anyone? Why not find common ground? Why deliberately offend someone? It's a public school, or it's a tax-payer financed library, right?

But Harry Potter proves this is a lie. Because when books as inoffensive as these ones are among the country's most targeted, you know there's no pleasing some people. If these people are allowed to call the shots, our library shelves will effectively be bare--which, I'm sorry to say, seems to be the hidden, anti-intellectual agenda of some of these people and groups.

This doesn't mean we can't have standards in the books we buy and teach. But it does mean that just because someone thinks something--just because a lot of people think something--that doesn't mean they have anything resembling a legitimate point.

Do these people have a right to their opinion? Of course. They also have a right to make sure that their own children don't read the book.

But let's face it: some opinions are so lacking substance, and so poorly formulated, that they really don't deserve to be paid much attention at all.

A woman in Georgia wants to ban Harry Potter from schools? And a majority of legislators in Oklahoma wants to restrict or remove all gay-themed children's books in a public library? Someone else thinks it's not appropriate for some high school students to study To Kill a Mockingbird or The Handmaiden's Tale or Brokeback Mountain?

I'm sorry, but these opinions are patently absurd. And the fact that lots of people might believe them doesn't change that in the slightest.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Mark L Williams said...

we need to name these people for what they are -- especially the anti-Harry Potter crowd: Theocrats.

There is zero difference -- zero -- between them and any fatwa-issuing Mullah in Iran (who they would claim to differ from), also trying to keep everyone else from reading anything that doesn't agree with their own restricted, love & charity- impoverished religious views.

Again, the rhetoric about "parental control," or school curricula are all smoke screens. These are control freaks, and theocrats, and as such -- given the country the founding fathers actually had in mind -- are fundamentally unAmerican.

At least in vis-a-vis any America where people still have the right to read what they choose.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Lisa Yee said...

The basic premise of HARRY POTTER is good vs. evil. And good wins. If she read the entire book, she'd have figured that out.

As for her aversion to "demonic activity," perhaps she should look to the BIBLE. I think there are some references to evil in that book as well.

12:20 PM  
Blogger sdfsdfsdf said...

This is a bit like literrary inquisition. Today almost everything's demonic, paris hilton, porn and now Harry Potter.
P.S Please link to my blog.

6:54 PM  
Blogger plan2succeed.org said...

Everyone knows I'm against pushing sexually inappropriate books on children. Harry Potter is not even close. People who try to remove Harry Potter from a child's grasp look silly. From my point of view, as someone only interested in removing sexually inappropriate material from being pushed on children, the Harry Potter removal types are either easily or intentionally confused with efforts such as mine and just make it harder for us.

3:52 PM  
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