Dita Parker

Friday, October 1, 2010

When the night comes

It's Banned Books Week, sweetie darlings. This year's slogan: "Think for yourself and let others do the same." I've been going around reading some pretty witty reviews on books on lists such as this, and I'm not the only one whose personal library looks like the Disreputable Books Depository, it seems, or the only one shaking their head in disbelief all the while thinking, "Why is this book on the list?"

Why are any of them? Words still carry immense power, why else would individuals and governments alike go to extremes to ensure some words never get out? Because the messages they convey are subversive? Disturbing? True?

That list, it troubles me. It terrifies me, really. Denying children, teens and young adults the chance to get their hands on books such as What's Happening to My Body, The Facts Speak for Themselves or Fat Kid Rules the World, is leaving them in the dark alone with the feeling there might be something wrong with them, their thoughts, their impulses. "Did I deserve what they said/did? Is it my fault? Has anyone, anywhere, ever gone through anything like this?"

Rob them of the chance to talk about it, to find someone who has gone through the same, to find out that everyone, everywhere, has at some point harbored those same fears, hurts, doubts, and set them out into the night with nowhere else to go but their heads guilt-tripping ad infinitum. Feeling strange, alone, stupid.

Tell them they can't and just see if they don't. Don't do as I did, do as I say. We all know how well that works. Take sex education. It's not what kids know that gets them into trouble, it's everything they don't. And kids will explore, be it books, movies, gaming, boys and girls, alcohol and other substances, and the ever popular dark side of our human condition, the evil that men do. It will rain down on them eventually no matter what we do, and with the way we live now, the technology some or rather most kids are far more competent in than their elders, they come face-to-face with it faster than ever before.

Our naïveté doesn't help our children retain their innocence. Ignorance, theirs, ours, isn't bliss, it's dangerous, hurtful, irresponsible. It's leaving kids to their own devices, leaving them to figure it all out by themselves, forcing them to make decisions and form opinions based not on facts and open dialogue but our own fears, hang-ups and prejudices.

Think for yourself? Yes, please do, much appreciated. Let others do the same? Yes, please, much obliged. But stand by the wee ones when they're only learning how. Don't send them off into the night without so much as a matchbook, the hope that it's going to be all right, whatever it is, and the promise you will be there for them, whenever they need you.

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