Now that it is fashionable in parts of the United States to ban and/or burn books, it seems like a good time for a book lover, that being me, to make a comment or two. I have also noticed that in Texas school libraries are being closed. I suppose it’s just the next step in keeping dangerous ideas away from innocent children. Or perhaps, Texans have assumed that reading books is an outdated activity and that students are better off using more modern technology. I don’t know. Somehow, it all reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. But, of course, that’s a book and has probably been banned somewhere by now.
I have always been a voracious and omnivorous reader. In my teens, I would check out books from the library without any notion of what the subject matter was. My father was okay with me having my nose in a book. He seldom bothered to see what I was reading, except for one time when I brought home a copy of Catch-22 from Joseph Heller. He was very upset that I had that book in my possession.
He angrily told me to take the book back and snarled, “Be careful what you read.”
That seemed confusing to me at the time, and it still is. How can I be careful about what I read until I start reading it?
It appears that currently there are many folks in our country who are eager to help young people be careful with what they read. It seems to me that the methods being used to prevent underage individuals from perusing unsafe publications are rather quaint. Banning books has that old-school Third Reich vibe that probably appeals to some people, but who are they kidding?
A generation ago, when my own children were young, it was pointless for me to tell them not to read something. That just gave the book or magazine the attraction it needed. Once I condemned a certain type of reading material, it became forbidden fruit. Then they had to read it, just to find out why their grumpy old man didn’t like it.
That was in the prehistoric period before the advent of the Internet. Now, damn near every kid has a smartphone and knows how to use it. Any young person can look up any document anywhere at any time. Who needs a library? Banning books might make parents feel like they are doing their duty to protect their impressionable children, but it’s a futile effort. Everything that these parents want to restrict is out there and easily accessible to their kids.
None of my adult children read books for pleasure. I don’t know if any of their contemporaries do. They read, but everything is online. The only young people I know who like to get cozy with a good book are the ones who are doing time in the slammer. I’ve sent books to them. They have been grateful for that, seeing as their options for entertainment are limited.
It’s different for me. I have a love affair with books. I like the fact that they are tangible. I like the ability to read them in bed and lay them aside if I get tired. The authors of the books I enjoy are like old friends. I come back to them over and over. I always like to hear from Steinbeck or Dostoyevsky or Tolkien. I have shelves full of books, some of them yellowing with age. My favorite books aren’t there, because the books that I love most, I give away to people who will appreciate them. Those are books that I want to share.
I once self-published a book. That was years ago. I will never do it again. I discovered that publishing a book is more work than writing it. I don’t want to sell a book that I wrote. It’s like selling myself, and I find that distasteful. The experience did give me a greater appreciation for the books of other authors. Even if I totally disagree with the opinions found in a book, I have to respect the fact that the writer put his or her heart and soul into the work of creating it.
I wish the book banners felt the same way.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.