“Of course it can. All great literature makes us uncomfortable, because it addresses what makes us fully human. That includes our worst traits, like hatred of those who are different from us. So if your goal is to shield kids from discomfort, you’re going to have to censor a lot of really good books.”
“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”
I’m excited to announce that a global literary and free speech organization, PEN International, has established a new chapter in Dallas, Texas. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International has a very simple mission: preserve literature in all its forms and ensure everyone can engage in free speech and freedom of expression. These are core elements in any truly democratic society, but they are constantly being challenged and even threatened by self-appointed guardians of writing, journalism and speech; people who seem to think they have the right and the power to determine what the rest of us can say and read. It’s a never-ending battle and, sadly, it never will be won. Those of us who advocate for a free press and free speech will always have to confront the oligarchical bullies who feel they – and only they – are blessed with inalienable rights to speech and literature.
Pen International felt the need to
establish the Dallas / Fort Worth chapter in the wake of the fraudulent 2016
U.S. presidential election, which has given us an arrogant, foul-mouthed,
womanizing, reality TV star in the White House.
“At a time of exceptional threats to
free expression and open discourse, our chapters will bring years of
mobilization, activism and organizing among writing communities across the
country to the next level,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.
The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, as well
as others around the U.S. will be vehicles for “pushing back against the
breakdown of civil discourse, the marginalization of vital voices, and
encroachments on press freedom.”
This shouldn’t be a surprised to anyone
familiar with U.S. politics. I’ve noticed
over the years that, any time a conservative Republican lands in the White
House, free speech and freedom of the press come under attack. They have no problems loosening gun laws and
sending our military to fight stupid wars (as if there’s such a thing as a “smart”
war). But, when it comes to education,
health care and even voting, conservatives suddenly feel the need to debate the
Regardless of how hard we have to fight
to ensure the rights to free speech and freedom of the press, we will always
take up the torch of liberty and justice.
Everyone has a story and everyone needs to
Once again, it’s time for “Banned Books Week” – the annual event where we free speech advocates and other enlightened souls are forced to counter the anger of the holier-than-thou crowd who somehow feel imbued with the power to tell everyone else what they can read and see. Help support literacy and education. It’s they’re the best tools against ignorance and arrogance. This is a battle we’ll never win. But it’s always worth fighting!
“The writing is — I’m free from pain. It’s where nobody tells me what to do; it’s where my imagination is fecund and I am really at my best. Nothing matters more in the world or in my body or anywhere when I’m writing.”