Sunday, January 22, 2012

Having a Voice, Having a Choice: Censorship Sucks

From Merriam-Webster's (the important definitions)
Voice: 1) a sound resembling or suggesting vocal utterance
2) a: wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed <the voice of the people>
b: right of expression; also: influential power
Choice: 1) the act of selecting freely and after consideration

The act of screaming can only be done in a place where screams are allowed to be heard. When cries for something better are not allowed to be heard, then I'd have to say that that's definitely a problem. It's more than a problem- it's censorship. I began thinking about this more both after watching the move "Lemonade Mouth" (yes it's Disney but it wasn't that bad) and watching a video about censoring books on YouTube with a bunch of authors (including the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson).

I already wrote an article about this, actually, and it got published in my local newspaper. However, I still feel that this represents a greater problem. When you begin to censor things, that can lead to all sorts of nasty things.

It can lead to a wider oppression and it can also lead to certain things not being faced in a society. Since books deal with certain issues and portraying them in a certain way, the lack of books about certain subjects can influence how people see things. It can also leave people in the dark about things since books have often opened people's eyes to things (think Silent Spring, Grapes of Wrath, etc). It robs people of the chance to express themselves and to introduce their ideas and it robs people of the chance to decide whether or not they should listen up or not.

This isn't just about books, of course. Last year, my school district took away the voice and choices of students on two occasions. On one, they censored a piece of art that happened to show nudity. On another, they forbade classrooms to watch R-rated movies that were not on their pre-approved list (note that students were allowed to sit out of this by either parental wishes or their own and that parental permission was required ahead of time). Both times, they failed to look at the bigger picture- both the picture that many of these movies showed and what that art piece showed.

When you are censored, your voice is taken away. You may have had something valuable to say but it doesn't matter. In a censored world, everything is homogeneous and bland but people cannot even open their eyes to see the truth. Also, you may lose the chance to think critically about something or even just to savor it.

People should have the right to hear, speak, read and watch anything they want as long as this not violating the rights of anyone else. I don't even really care if someone's offended (or even if they are justified in this). This is a free country (or it least, it was. Some things are making me a little more doubtful about this). Parents should have the right to control what their kids are reading/watching and not some busybody who wants to get into everyone's business and decide what articles are appropriate for what ages (if any). Even then, most kids seriously know when they aren't ready to read a book and most will put it down if they are not.

Censorship, in any form, is an outrage and a direct attack on freedom.

Screaming is a very primal thing, especially a scream of outrage. Our voices should have the right to be heard. A free society is one with a cacophony of various voices.

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