Imagination at risk of being banned

I just read that a parochial school in Tennessee banned the Harry Potter books from its library because the characters use “spells” – spells that open locked doors and call up eagles for protection, shape-shifting spells that challenge the imagination.   

All schools have their worries, but this is the first I’ve heard of secret spells being one of them, at least not since the 1600s.  It’s a bit hard to believe that 21st Century grown-ups are combing through children’s books searching for magical incantations, but one can’t be too careful.  After all, the author in question, J. K. Rowling, uses Latin words, for crying out loud.   

Few people speak Latin today, not counting all those English words with Latin roots, so there’s no telling what the book’s phrases mean. Have you ever read the New Testament? It’s all in English, and I have a copy to prove it. As someone once famously – or infamously – said, “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.”    Down with Latin, folks, and the sooner, the better.

The next step will be to get rid of “Cinderella.” Remember the pumpkin that turned into a coach? There had to be skullduggery going on there, along with those glass slippers, which must have been the world’s most uncomfortable footwear. No wonder she left one of them at the prince’s party. She should have left them both there, and good riddance!

Forgetting the pumpkin and shoes, Cinderella was an early version of helpless-girl-turned-feminist, and that alone makes her suspect. Think of the trouble it would cause if young female readers grew up believing in equal pay for equal work, or complained about no promotions or sexual harassment. They, too, might decide they can go to the ball, whatever that might mean today. Then where would we be?

Yes, Cinderella must go, and after that … but wait. Don’t I remember that book-banning has never worked out very well? Besides making people overly eager to read what has been banned, there’s the question of who does the banning. If I get to do it, fine; but my American self gets huffy when others start telling me what I must do, think, read, or not read. Our Declaration of Independence from a not-entirely-sane king has a word or two to say about not being pushed around, as I recall.    

Consider the family that first constructed a dwelling: “We were just sitting around and came up with the idea of enclosing an area with stacked-up rocks. We call it a ‘house’.  It keeps wolves from dragging the kids off at night.”

I can almost hear some old cynic muttering, “If people had been meant to live in houses, nature would have provided them for us.”   

Hmm. Would that apply today to the combustion engine, telephones,  airplanes, antibiotics, and computers?  Maybe nature did provide all those things, through imagination.   

Right now I’m imagining a ban on book-banning, once and for all. Don’t read what you don’t like, book-banners, but please leave the rest of us alone.  We’ll survive, and so will you.

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