EDITORIAL: Banning books challenges the written word

Among all forms of mass media, literature remains unmatched in its ability to shape young minds.

A good book captures the imagination. It fosters boundless creativity and helps define who we are. For many students at Central Michigan University, the “Harry Potter” books were the defining stories of our time.

The fantastical imagery, altruistic themes and the journey of a boy and his friends with magical powers helped show Millennials that anything was possible — that a poor, ignored orphan from the UK could become the most powerful and beloved wizard in fictional history.

Though Potter’s message was aspirational, some concerned parents and religious crusaders continue to denounce the series. They miss the beautiful writing and well-conceived characters and instead focus on the violence and witchcraft.

Since their release, the Potter books have been banned by groups in America and around the globe. The stories join books like the Holy Bible and the “Communist Manifesto” as some of the most historically banned books of all time.

We question the logic of banning or censoring books, especially those that can change people’s lives for the better. We believe banning books of any nature — even those as dastardly as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — is wrong.

Censorship of any kind represents a threat to liberty. In America, it violates our First Amendment rights to consume and digest whatever media we please, and runs counter to the ideals of an informed democracy.

Great literature teaches us to think critically and explore the artistic recesses of our minds. Literature allows us to reexamine our beliefs in the hope of strengthening those ideals. Banning a book because of disagreements over content strips children and people of all ages of the chance to grow and contribute to the our marketplace of ideas.

We understand that parents and religious organizations reserve the right to withhold ideas deemed inappropriate from their children and followers. It is up to parents to decide what a child does or views inside the confines of the home.

That right, however, does not extend to government entities. We call on all public school systems, municipalities, local libraries and parent groups around the globe to cease any and all attempts to ban media.

If we ban creative content that we disagree with — including hate speech on the internet — we forfeit what it means to live in a free society.

Our world might be better off if Neo-Nazis and ethno-supremacists were were silent, but it is not for us to decide whether or not they deserve or do not deserve the right to speak freely.

We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights to decide that for us, and it has, succinctly, for more than 200 years.

We must not allow the will of a few fearful individuals to dictate or hinder free thought. We cannot allow these people to manipulate our government into censorship under the guise of protecting innocent minds.

In an age of social media and smartphone overuse, banning a book is counterintuitive.

The chief criticism of the Millennial generation is that we spend far too much time on the Internet, and that we’d be better off getting some fresh air or reading a book.

If we agree with that premise, consider the negative cultural implications of keeping people and children away from books that could inspire them to make our world a more vibrant, intellectual and positive place.