November 29, 2012

I’ll Make My Own Choices, Thank You Very Much

Few things really rile me up. I might care about certain issues, but that does not mean that my blood will start boiling by the mere thought of them. However, I have a few pet issues that really get me going so much so that my birthmark shows itself with zeal because my blood pumps so fast from anger. One of these issues is censorship. Nothing angers me more than censorship.

Why is that, you might ask? Surely there are more important issues, you say. Well, let me explain. Censorship is one of those issues with spindly arms reaching into other serious issues. You see, when someone or something is censored, that means their voice is silenced. Silence eventually leads to death of thoughts, ideas, and potential. Silence makes us forget.

I may not agree with what people think or say or act, but I do not agree that they should be censored. I may not like their position, but they have the right to speak or write about it. Only through open discussion and debate can we find the truth. Censorship denies truth.

Silencing different opinions only leads to indoctrination and manipulation. Think of any major conflict in the past where one group was censored and I assure censorship was used to control. Let’s use McCarthy’s Red Scare for instance. In this time, McCarthy created such a fright about the potential of communism that people who believed in the ideals of Marxism, which is different from what we understand as communism, found themselves black listed, which certainly meant more than just not being invited to events. These people were interrogated, followed, basically lost all of their rights because McCarthy manipulated the situation. He censored their ideas. He censored their thoughts.

Not all of these individuals were dangerous. In fact, many of them were not even communists, yet they suffered because of McCarthy’s censorship. See how quickly censorship becomes dangerous?

Censorship does not just happen in the political arena; it happens in writing as well. How many times do I have to defend a writer’s work even if I do not like it? From Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn to Judy Blume, Harper Lee, Ayn Rand, J.K. Rowling, and oh so many more, time and again people try to censor their works. What’s even more aggravating is that many times the censors have not even read the work, so how could they even know what they are trying to censor? Again, I may not like what authors have written, but that does not mean that I have the right to prevent others from reading their works.

I do not have the right to prevent others from their works. Nor should anyone else.

Frankly, no medium is safe. Music, television, movies, everything feels the effects of censorship. We all have to deal with censorship on a daily basis. Even the internet is being imposed on by censorship in a variety of ways. YouTube to Facebook to blogs and email—censorship knows no bounds.

To say that one group or individual knows what is best for people to read or hear or think is ludicrous. This, more than most offenses, is an unforgivable breach of our privacy rights. Censorship prevents learning. Censorship denies truth. Censorship only keeps people from growing. Simply put, censorship is bad. Way bad.

The only way to deal with censorship is to not ignore it. When we see censorship happening, whether via television, the world wide web, radio, print, speeches, education, or whatever, we must take a stand. We must not allow others to censor us. It is easy to sit idly by and allow censorship to happen because we do not have a vested interest in that certain case, but rest assured, some day censorship will touch us all. We must not allow this.

Words mean things and are important. Images mean things and are important. Censorship prevents the importance, the knowledge, from discovery. Censorship means nothing. None should want to live in a world where someone else decides for them. Censorship means no choice. We should all be eager to learn, to interact, to choose and discuss. Censorship is the complete opposite of all that.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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