EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT/It’s a sin to kill `A Mockingbird’
In Lindale, Texas, you are exercising the appropriate community values if you lie about being raped, attempt to lynch innocent people, believe in terrorizing children and snub those who are a little odd. At least that’s the conclusion I draw based on the town’s reaction to Harper Lee’s classic tale, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The book, about a white Alabama lawyer’s quixotic fight to free a wrongly arrested black man and the effect the battle has on his young children, was kicked off the advanced placement English reading list in Lindale because “it conflicted with the values of the community.”
Anne Arundel County, Md., took Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” off its ninth-grade reading list because it “portrays white people as being horrible, nasty, stupid people.” Much like, until very recently, ninth-grade history books portrayed black people.
Marysville, Calif., knocked off J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” because it didn’t want the community, which apparently agrees on absolutely everything else, to be “polarized” over a book.
And one Bridgeport Township, Mich., public school nixed the wondrous Harry Potter series because it deals – as do “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Hansel and Gretel” – with magic and witchcraft.
Those are the findings of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which released a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books in honor of Banned Books Week (Sept. 23-30). During the 1990s, the organization tracked more than 5,000 complaints at public schools and libraries to come up with the Worrisome 100, which includes such titles as “Of Mice and Men,” “Brave New World” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Across the country, parents who think nothing of letting their children watch “South Park” and play “Doom” video games, turn into stormtroopers at the thought of those same children picturing in their minds Harry climbing onto his broomstick for a rollicking game of Quidditch. And rather than risk an argument, spineless cities and counties are backing them up.
Here’s what I think: Local government officials who let someone convince them to take “To Kill a Mockingbird” off a high school reading list should be made to write “I will not censor literary works” 100 times on the blackboard. Then they should be forced to write an essay comparing and contrasting the policies of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the United States toward literature.
Then somebody should throw the book at them.