Of away is if we are allowed to

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Of Peter Noyes
Erin Lowe- also author of many “outstanding” American History
essays…. of which two are published somewhere here….. one about Peter Noyes,
and another about Mercantilism….. “Books won’t stay banned. They won’t
burn. Ideas won’t go to jail… In the long run of history, the censor and the
inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better
ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a
liberal education.” The only way that the ideas of this world that are
deemed bad are going to go away is if we are allowed to see them and change
them. If we are not allowed to see what is “bad” then our society will
never grow to become a better place. What censorship does is keep us protected;
leaving us living sheltered lives. If we never see a racist comment how are we
to know that racism is bad? At the same time Censorship can be a good thing
because it keeps children from seeing pornography, and terrible acts of
violence. However censorship should not keep anyone from seeing literature, even
if it is considered slightly explicit in a sexual, racial, or violent manner.

Censorship should leave the ideas of people alone and leave them with their
first amendment rights. Amendment one of the United States Bill of Rights reads
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise there of; or abridging the freedom of speech, or
of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”. What
this means is that we, in America have the right to be any religion, and to not
have that religion forced upon us. We have the right to say what we want and to
publish our ideas if we so wish, and to read the ideas that others have
published. We can also peaceably assemble, or gather in protest without violence
what we think is wrong. The biggest right that we have is that of free speech
and press. We can say what we want! As American sometimes we take this for
granted. However even though we have the right to free speech we have to draw
the line somewhere, but where? “We so often condemn books that were written
to fight the very things that we claim to be fighting.” This quote
illustrates one of the things that are so wrong with censorship. We seem to ban
or censor books, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that are actually
against racism or whatever the objection to the book is. When a book is taken
the wrong way it is simply the fault of the reader, and not the book. The book
therefore cannot be censored in this case. To override the right of free speech
on the grounds that the speech in question is likely to harm or offend others is
to commit an act of censorship. Not all censorship of this manner is unjustified
however, for some speech causes significant and direct harm to others, such as
maliciously defaming speech, and speech which opens national secrets to
“enemies”. There should be however a presumption that all speech is
protected from censorship in that the censor always has to prove and to persuade
the people that the speech is bad. In this way it is using new and better ideas
to eliminate the bad ideas. The speaker should not have to prove every time that
an individual challenges his/her speech that it really is good. The proof has to
be that whatever harm or offense the speech has caused is significant, and
direct. Free speech is a valuable thing, and should not be restricted by its
remote or superficially adverse affect on others. “Without free speech no
search for truth is possible… no discovery of truth is useful… Better a
thousandfold abuse of free speech that denial of free speech. The abuse dies in
a day, but the denial slays the life f the people, and entombs the hope of the
race” This quote had an excellent point in the case against censorship. To
discover new ideas and the truth of life we need to be exposed to new thoughts,
and different thoughts. If we always saw the same thoughts over and over we
could never expand; we could never become better as a society without new ideas.

If new ideas cannot be written or seen then their discovery is useless, for they
cannot help without being seen. SO it is better that we see cases in which free
speech is used in a bad way, such as in defaming specific people or groups or
ideas, than to have no free speech at all as a result of free censorship.

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Defaming something that should not be defamed can be recovered from, for good
things will be supported more than gone against. Also, things that need to be
obliterated from society will be by this right of free speech. The denial of
free speech will smother the life of a society. A society where different ideas
aren’t all owed will soon fail. However there is no right to harm or to offend
other people. If an idea in a book is explicitly insulting a particular group or
person it could be censored, depending on the type of offense. If, for example a
book says that African Americans are all stupid, simple, and should be killed
off for this fact the book should only be read by choice, and not be forced upon
anyone. An adult is capable of making a choice not to read, or allow their child
to read a book that is expressly offensive to them. People always seem to be not
concerned with what they read, but with what other people read. Quite often it
is a white person that bans a book for fear that it might insult an African
American, or a male, thinking that it might insult a female. “Did you ever
hear anyone say ‘That work had better be banned because I might read it and it
might me very damaging to me’?” People should really only censor for
themselves, and they should be allowed to censor for themselves. “The mind
that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean” This
statement is in many cases true. Small children should not be exposed to
pornography, or to extreme violence, for their developing minds are very
impressionable. However they can be exposed to a wide variety of ideas, so that
as they grow older they can decide for themselves what and who they want to be.

If they are exposed to racist ideas, it is very likely that they will also be
exposed to anti-racist ideas, leaving their mind still undecided. If children
are exposed to minor sexuality then it will leave them having a much easier time
accepting themselves when they become young adults, and then adults. The things
that are put into the minds of the young will never leave them, and so in some
cases censorship is necessary. Many books are censored for reasons of sex,
violence, the occult, racism, or for having “rebellious children” in
them. Most common are the racism, and sex reasons. Welcome to the Monkey House
by Kurt Vonnegut is an example of a book banned for these reasons. The book is a
collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut and the title is the same as the
title of one of the stories. These stories include “Welcome to the Monkey
House”, “All the King’s Horses”, “Who am I This Time?”,
“More Stately Mansions”, “The Foster portfolio”, and
“The Kid Nobody Could Handle” along with many others. Those listed
however seemed the most likely to be banned out of the book. Kurt Vonnegut is
well known as a pessimistic writer, whose topic usually is the future. He wrote
these for mass produced and distributed magazines. They therefore are rather
conventional, both thematically, and technically. Through these stories you can
see some of the information about Vonnegut himself. He is the product of an
Indianapolis middle class family. Many of the stories also show Vonnegut’s and
America’s preoccupation with the Cold War, love, status, and identity. The first
story, “Welcome to the Monkey House” a future society is described in
America where a scientist had invented and ethical birth- control pill that
removes all pleasure from sex, and the government requires al women and men to
take them. “The pills are ethical because they didn’t interfere with a
person’s ability to reproduce, which would have been unnatural and immoral, all
the pills did was take every bit of pleasure out of sex. Thus did science and
morals go hand in hand” The hero of this story is a very short, funny
looking man who calls himself Billy the Poet. He seduces the suicide hostesses,
whose job it is to help people commit suicide painlessly and effectively,
whenever they want in a pleasurable way. In this case he dresses up as an old
man who wants to commit suicide. When he seduces these women, always at gunpoint
he forces them to abandon their ethical birth control pills. “The people
who understood science said that people had to quit reproducing so much, and the
people who understood morals said that society would collapse if people used sex
for nothing but pleasure” This story is not nearly as pessimistic as some
of Vonnegut’s other novels, however it isn’t optimistic either. The story makes
the government and the scientific community the villains of the story for taking
away sex. It also makes Billy the Poet a hero for rebelling against the
government edict and for spreading his philosophy of pleasure through sexual
intercourse. One thing that should be pointed out about this story is that it
was originally written for Playboy magazine. One of the ironies of the story was
after Billy raped the suicide hostess and removed her ethical birth control
pills. He leaves her with a poem and a bottle of regular birth control pills.

The poem was “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways” which is
ironic because Billy has shown no love for the suicide hostess, only a little
bit of pleasure for converting her to a “Nothinghead”. However the
poem is appropriate because the suicide hostess’ feeling about sex were very
like those of most Victorian ladies. The effect of the ethical birth control
pills is also much like the effects that the author of the poem, Elisabeth
Browning, felt after falling off of her horse. The theme of this story is not in
the altruistic efforts of Billy the Poet, but rather, things that seem good
really aren’t necessarily good. The next story was “All the King’s
Horses”. This story is the product of the Cold War of the early 1950’s when
Americans were becoming more and more suspicious of the Soviet Union and of
China. The Sort describes a battle between a group of Americans, led by Colonel
Kelley, and Pi Ying, a Chinese guerilla leader. The Americans were the victims
of a plane crash in China. Ying brings Kelley, his wife, his 2 sons, and twelve
American soldiers to a hideout where he offers the Colonel one chance to save
all their lives. The chance is that he must uses the Americans as chess pieces
in a game against Pi Ying while a Russian advisor observes. If Kelley wins the
Americans will go free. Ying is a rather evil bloodthirsty character and the
Russian is eager for a war between the United States and Russia as soon as the
time is right. Ying is assassinated by his mistress, and then the Russian takes
over, but Kelley has already won. The Russian lets the Americans go, and says
that ultimately there will be a war between them, but later. This story now
seems very dated, however it reflects accurately the American sentiment during
the early Cold War period. The theme of the story seems to be in the choices
that people make. People make good decisions and people make bad decisions.

Those that make good decisions come out well in the end. The story “Who am
I this time?” is an example of Vonnegut’s stories that show a concern about
role playing, and people being who they are, and aren’t. The main character, a
very shy hardware clerk only comes alive when he is in a role in the local
theatre group. The director in the story decides to do the play A Streetcar
Named Desire. The hardware clerk, Harry becomes Marlin Brando in the play and a
young girl named Helene who plays Stella in the play falls in love with him.

Because harry was left on the doorstep of a church as a baby he has no concept
of self, and Helene was always employed moving from place to place, so she never
developed a personality of her own. Both of them therefore yearn for an
environment in which they can blend in and feel that they have an identity. They
marry, and their marriage only works because they are constantly reading lines
of couples from various plays. The story “More Stately Mansions” was
about a woman who from the beginning of the story is rather odd and in the end
seems completely psychotic. The theme of the story is that the dream is always
more precious than the reality. A couple moves into a suburban home and
discovers that their neighbor Grace has an obsession with home decorating. Grace
invites them over for a couple drinks and they discover that Grace’s home is
rather dull, dirty, and everything is falling apart. Grace falls sick and while
she is in the hospital her husband inherits enough money that he can do all of
her decorating that she’d been dreaming about over the years. When she came home
from the hospital however the only thing that she notices is the bouquet of
roses that her husband bought her. She seems to think that this was the way that
she left her house, and that it was always perfect and beautiful. She sits on
the couch, looking rather depressed and her husband announces that a new
“Home Beautiful” has come in the mail, to which she replies “read
one and you’ve read them all” when she used to be obsessed with the
magazines. “The Foster Portfolio” is one of the most pessimistic of
any of the stories. IT is one of his many stories about the relationships
between fathers and sons. Herbert Foster works as a bookkeeper to support his
wife and child. He has inherited almost a million-dollar stock portfolio, but he
feels that the money is tainted because it came from his father, a man who
abandoned wife and child to devote his life to playing music and to drinking gin
and he won’t touch it. Three nights a week Herbert goes out to a cheap bar
because he “had the respectability his mother had hammered into him. But
just as priceless as that was an income not quite big enough to go around. It
left him no alternative but- in the holy names of wife, child and home- to play
piano in a dive, and breathe smoke, and drink gin, to be Firehouse Harris, his
father’s son, three nights out of seven”. Foster’s split personality causes
him to find it necessary to create roles that help him cope with what seem
unbearable problems. The story that gives this book the biggest merit is
“The Kid Nobody Could Handle”. The music teacher, Helmholtz is
appalled to find that Jim Donnini, a juvenile delinquent from the streets of
Chicago, has been vandalizing Lincoln High School. Filled with compassion and
desperation Helmholtz offers him his most prized possession, John Philip Sousa’a
trumpet. When the boy initially shows no interest, Helmholtz hammers the
instrument against a coat tree and mutter that “Life is no damn good”
; and only then does Donnini show any interest in Helmholtz. With the start of a
new school semester, Jim Donnini takes the last seat of the worst trumpet
section of the “C” band. As Helmholtz tells him and the rest of the
band “Our aim is to make the world more beautiful than it was when we came
into it… Love yourself…and make your instrument sing about it” Vonnegut
is saying in this story that without a sense of self worth it is impossible for
anyone to achieve anything. The entire book Welcome to the Monkey House was
banned only a few times, for it isn’t taught in very many schools. However the
main example of it being banned was in Alabama, where a teacher was fired for
teaching it because the book promoted the killing off of the elderly, and free
sex. The teacher later sued, and won. These two things, the killing off of the
elderly, and free sex were both in the actual story “welcome to the Monkey
House”. The story did promote free sex, but only normal amounts of sex. The
idea was that the pills were wrong, not that people now should have more sex. As
for the killing off of the elderly, the idea was for the killing off of anyone
that wanted to die because there was a large population problem going on. There
were also many good reasons for the book being taught. The book has many morals
taught in it and just about every story has a positive message in it. The
positive message in “All the Kings Horses” was about making good
choices and being bold in life, the message in “The Kid Nobody Could
Handle” was about believing in yourself. There was even a positive message
in “More Stately Mansions” that dreams are sometimes better than
reality, and that the dreamer is not necessarily bad. The positive message in
“Welcome to the Monkey House” is that sometimes the big guy is wrong,
and change can be brought about by one small person, along with that we
shouldn’t as a society be afraid of sex. In most cases censorship indeed seems
to be only a violation of peoples right to free speech. It is, in the words of
the Disinformation website “an easy way for prudish control freaks to get
their jollies”. However, there are cases in which censorship is right. For
children, there is a reason for censorship, but adults can decide whether or not
they want to read books like “Welcome to the Monkey House”.

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