A number of people commented on my blog post last week, about the t-shirt featuring titles of books that are well-known classics, but have been banned at different times and for different reasons. The caption under the books read, “I’m with the banned.”

I was happy to see the response from someone who posted an enthusiastic “I’ll join your band!”

Someone else said she found it ironic that books are being banned at a time when movies and videos are filled with explicit sex and violence. She also pointed out that when you read a book, you create pictures in your mind to respond to what you’re reading, whereas movies and videos put it all out there, searing their images into your brain, and not allowing you to think for yourself and use your own imagination. Good point!

Another person, who’s a big fan of Ray Bradbury, author of one of the banned books I mentioned, noted that banning books is one of the first things dictators do. History certainly bears that out. The People’s Republic of China, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union are a few well-known examples of countries where censorship is or was practiced on a large scale.

I have to admit it scares me to see some things going on in our country today that should have been buried in the distant past, but are showing up again – or still – and threatening some of the freedoms we enjoy. Censorship and book banning are among them, but so is violent racism, as well as intolerance toward anyone who is “different,” whether because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or any number of designations.

Years ago, I did volunteer work at a battered women’s shelter. At one of their fundraisers, I bought a t-shirt that said, “You can’t beat a woman.” I love the double meaning, and I still have the t-shirt. But I never wear it anymore, at least not when I’m going out of the house. You never know when someone might read it and take it as a challenge. Some short-tempered guy who’s mad at his girlfriend, or was counting on a promotion at work that instead went to a woman. Or something else that has nothing to do with me.

This may make me sound like I’m paranoid or overreacting, but headlines today prove it can take a lot less than that to set someone off.

Messages on t-shirts can be clever, comical, personal, or political, and I always enjoy reading them. What I’d really like to see is one that says, “Respect others. Respect yourself. And please be kind to everyone.”

I’d be first in line to buy that one.

August 19, 2023
©Betty Liedtke, 2023

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