Robert Cormier is no longer with us. While he was, he was a brilliant writer, a good man, and a Christian who probed the meaning of faith, both good and bad. Despite his talents, he was not a man whose many abilities would lead to the creation of transformational grammar, New Math, word processors, digital clocks, and ultimately, the downfall of Western society. According a letter writer at the Alleghany Times, this is precisely what has happened.
You see, The Chocolate War is in danger of being banned again. This is time, Cormier’s story about a secret society of school boys has come under attack at Monaca High School, in Monaca, PA. In an effort to support the ban, a couple of citizens have written in the Times. In one letter, a writer wonders what has become of the country (one that no longer values handwriting, grammar, long division, and analog clocks) if writers such as Cormier can hide their “pornography” behind the First Amendment. The same writer wonders about the absence of silent prayer in schools, the risk of offending someone by wishing a Merry Christmas, or about the fate of a Christmas tree becoming a mundane Holiday tree. The writer is righteously indignant that her freedom of religion is being infringed, rights guaranteed her by the First Amendment…of the…Constitution. Would that be the same Amendment that guarantees freedom of the speech? Freedom of the press?
Yes, it would.
Another writer bemoans the fact that “unprepared” writers are being introduced in the classroom and therefore, wonders how any of today’s young people could possibly become the next Twain or Hemingway or O’Neill. I don’t really follow the logic of the writers thinking, but I think it’s a good thing that Twain and Hemingway or O’Neill have never…been…censored. Would that be the same Twain who wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is perennially included in the Top Ten List of Frequently Banned Books? Would they be the same Hemingway and O’Neill whose work has been censored many times?
Yes, they would.
You see, Censors, the First Amendment protects equally. You can’t separate the freedoms to fit your own devices. If you want the freedom of religion, even your own idiomatic expression of it, then you have concede the same freedom to everyone. You can’t have it both ways. If you want freedom of speech for your favored authors, then you have to concede it to all authors, whether you value those authors or not. If you want freedom of the press so that you can publish your views supporting book banning, then you have to afford all presses the same freedom. There is no provision in the Constitution for selective enforcement, no rationale for forcing the rest of the country to conform to your particular definitions.
One of the writers claimed that The Chocolate War is pornographic. There is no pornography in it. The writer claims that there is child molestation in it. There is none. The writer claims the book is anti-Christian. It is not.
The Chocolate War is none of the things that the Censors claim it is.
However, you should not take my word for it. You should read the novel yourself so that you can see what’s in it. That’s what the Censors are trying to do, by the way–prevent US citizens from reading a book for themselves. Instead, they would rather tell you what is in it and make up your mind for you.
Don’t let them.