Comment: Scott Reeder – No one has the right to decide what others can and cannot read

Comment: Scott Reeder – No one has the right to decide what others can and cannot read

As my parents were walking down a street in China, a man sidled up next to my mother and asked if they had a Bible.

In accented English, he explained that some Americans had brought Bibles to donate in this communist country. My parents were pig farmers from Illinois who, over the years, visited their peers in China, Ukraine, Poland, and Denmark to exchange ideas.

When Mom told this story over 30 years ago, I was so grateful to live in a country where the government didn’t dictate what people could read.

I’m not sure I still live in a place like this.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where both the left and the right try to determine what others can read.

I’m stubborn enough that when someone tells me not to read something, it’s the first thing I add to my reading list.

Years ago, a Protestant scoffed at me for my curiosity about the Apocrypha, the four books of the Bible recognized by the Catholic Church but not most Protestant denominations.

My response was to read. This helped me to understand the differences between Catholic and Protestant teachings. It adds a larger context to 400 years before the birth of Jesus, and its prose is beautiful.

Today, race is often at the center of the debate over book bans. I recently interviewed Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey and he said that critical race theory should not be taught in schools.

Proponents of critical race theory hold that race is a social construct and that racism is not just the product of individual prejudice or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. Conservative critics argue that the basis of the theory is that the United States is inherently racist and that this makes students feel guilty about the past actions of white people.

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How about letting the kids read the works and decide for themselves?

Critics of Critical Racial Theory often point to Project 1619, a New York Times Magazine Pulitzer Prize-winning venture that explores the legacy of 400 years of slavery in what is now the United States.

For Christmas last year, my wife gave me a copy of Project 1619. It was fascinating reading. I agreed with some conclusions of the book. I don’t have others. But its alright. When you read something, it should make you think, not wait.

I also make a point of reading authors I know I won’t agree with. Sometimes I even read material that I know I will find repulsive if I enter.

For example, in 1995, after the Oklahoma City bombing, I walked into a bookstore in Davenport, Iowa, and asked if they had a copy of Turner Diaries, a racist book that allegedly inspired suicide bombers.

The elderly lady who owns the shop narrowed her eyes and growled, “We don’t sell that here. Do you want to bomb something?”

no But I wanted to understand what motivated the hatred in the terrorists. When I finally received a copy, I found the ideas to be disgusting. But it gave me insight into the twisted reasoning behind the white nationalist movement.

One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird. When I read the novel as a teenager, I was fascinated by the story of a lawyer taking a stand against a racist legal system in the South. I loved the book so much that when we were expecting our second daughter, I wanted to name her Scout, in honor of the book’s protagonist. (My wife dismissed the idea.)

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Today there is pressure to ban the book in schools. Some people don’t like it because it uses a racial epithet in the context of Southern culture at the time. Others say it is misogynistic because it involves a false allegation of rape. Others still don’t like a white man being cast as a hero trying to save a black man.

All these criticisms seem to be a good subject for classroom discussion. Instead, weak school administrators forbid its use.

So what am I reading during Banned Books Week? Well, Diary of a Misfit is an excellent non-fiction book. It’s about a lesbian journalist who returns to rural Louisiana, where she grew up, to make a documentary about a transgender man her grandmother met in the 1940s.

I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s a brilliant read.

I’m also reading Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller, an evangelical pastor, who talks about how we can find spiritual meaning in our work. I like to discuss this with others on Wednesday mornings.

Reading builds bridges of understanding between different groups.

What could be a better goal in our divided society?

Scott Reeder, staff writer for the Illinois Times, can be reached at [email protected]


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