The Islamic mosque to be located two blocks from Ground Zero has been much in the news during the last couple of weeks. While our Constitution guarantees the right to practice one’s religion (which unquestionably must include the right to decide where my church, synagogue or mosque is located), strident voices have been raised all over the Country claiming that a mosque so close to Hallowed Ground is insensitive to the feelings of those who lost family or loved ones on 9/11.
One should of course be sensitive to the feelings of our fellow human beings but, in a diverse Democracy such as ours, with millions pf people whose feelings are easily bruised, too much empathy can lead to censorship and other undesirable “democratic” practices. A typical example is book banning in the libraries and in our English classes in many public schools all over the country because of sensitivity, not necessarily to the majority, but to a minority who complain.
A recent article in the AARP Bulletin highlights this practice. Over 50 banned books are listed, though there are undoubtedly many more. Included in this list are Classics, some of our most famous and popular books, books valuable to the education of our children but banned because something in them offends a number of bluenoses.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Doctor Zhivago; For Whom the Bell Tolls and 1984 are excluded because some people consider them “Too political.” Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species is banned as “Irreligious.” Apparently, it is dangerous to expose our children to real science, such as evolutionary theory. For the same reason, the Harry Potter series is eliminated on the claim that it encourages “Witchcraft.” This, in the 21st Century!
Banned as being “Too sexual” are Ulysses Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises; Jaws; and Peyton Place. And then there is the catch all category “ Socially Offensive.” Believe it or not, this list includes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was unquestionably a ladies’ man, and had the nerve to write about it. The Diary of Anne Frank; ; Catch-22; To Kill a Mockingbird; and Brave New World are unavailable under this category. And, oh yes, so is Gone with the Wind. Ridiculous, isn’t it? What are our children supposed to read, Little Red Riding Hood?
Res ipsa loquitor. It speaks for itself. Oversensitivity to people’s sensitivity can lead to dangerous and self-defeating results.
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