"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~ George Santayana
That's one of my dad's favorite quotes. He had gone to college to become a history teacher before he took a "life-turn" to become a police officer.
As I was growing up, Dad and I had many conversations about history and personal responsibility. I don't remember Dad asking a lot of "what would you do if..." questions, but rather pointing out that Hitler's army was able to defeat a number of European countries because they knew where all the guns were thanks to the mandatory registration laws. Dad's philosophy was to work within the system to make changes for society.
What does that have to do with writing? Maybe nothing, but it does have something to do with reading. Especially this week—Banned Books Week.
I've often wondered what would make a book "dangerous." I'll admit that I've been rebellious enough to read a number of the books which have made the list. I've even encouraged my children and nieces to read such books. Heck, I've even encouraged other people's children to read banned books.
Don't get me wrong...I don't think every book is appropriate for every person. My nephew, for example, probably shouldn't be exposed to George Orwell's 1984 just yet. Then again, he's not even a year old and the theme of the novel would be lost on him. My nieces are older and might be able to grasp some of the concepts. (Though the rat scene is really creepy and still gives me the heebie-jeebies.) I'm sure they would understand Orwell's Animal Farm, though, and it would spark some interesting discussions between the girls and their parents.
Isn't that what books are supposed to do? Spark discussion? Engage imagination? Teach something? Whether a book is fiction or non-fiction, there is something to be learned in each and every book. Even Harry Potter taught us something—good will triumph over evil.
The freedom to read is similar to so many other freedoms we have. In America, we have the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom to assemble. Each of those freedoms can be lost if we don't exercise them. With those freedoms come some responsibilities.
So this week, take some time to exercise your freedom to read. Grab a banned book and read it. Share it with someone else. You just might learn something. Oh, and let me know what your favorite banned book is. A list of classics can be found at the American Library Association's web site.