Gordon S. Jackson: Please Ban My Books

By Gordon S. Jackson

By Gordon S. Jackson

Where is Cardinal Richelieu now that I need him? He once said, “If you give me six lines written in the hand of the most honest of men, I’ll find something to hang him in there.” Surely he could find in the 18 books I have written or compiled an abundance of hanging offences.

Of course, I would prefer that he reduce the severity of the sentence. I would just show him example after example to those over-eager parents who would be terrified that my books might end up in their children’s school libraries. My books would then join taboo lists across the country, as parents shared the danger with each other. Social media was buzzing with the inequities and moral hazard embedded in my writing. This would happen mainly on the political right, but also on the left; Richelieu’s ruthless standards are non-partisan. School and public librarians would find themselves wearily defending free speech and contorting themselves trying to keep my books accessible while simultaneously protecting vulnerable children from their parents’ worst fears.

No, wait – almost none of my books have reached library status. Sales generally slowed or crashed immediately after a book was released. This is precisely why I would appreciate the help of this French clergyman and statesman. He died in 1642, but his challenge lives on. Getting one of my books banned is the best publicity I can imagine. As one of the 99% of authors who cannot afford huge advertising or marketing budgets for their books, I would take whatever exposure Richelieu, or his intellectual successors in the “gotcha” tradition, could generate. for me.

Two examples: Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” has a long history of creating banned lists. Historian Arthur Schlesinger has pointed out that the Concord Public Library Board did just that in March 1885. Schlesinger says that when “Twain heard what the Concord Public Library had done, he remarked: ‘It will sell us 25,000 copies, of course.’ ”

Then, moving on to the movies, we have the example of a John Waters film, ‘Pink Flamingoes’, which was described in a Variety review as “one of the most despicable, stupid and disgusting movies ever made. “. When the filmmaker was charged with obscenity in Orlando, Florida, Waters wrote an “open letter to the censors.” It began like this: “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Censor: Just a quick note to thank you for all the extra profit you’ve helped me achieve…. Money couldn’t buy all the free publicity and fame you gave me over the years.

Oh, what I would give for even an ounce of the kind of attention Twain and Waters received. Surely there are many self-proclaimed watchdogs among the religious right who could find material in my religious fiction and my nonfiction to growl? And no doubt, there’s equally offensive material to chew on for the woke crowd in my novel satirizing political correctness on a college campus, “Never Say ‘Moist’ at Wyndover College.”

Despite my religious beliefs, when it comes to selling my books, the sin of envy taints my spiritual walk. Why don’t they ban or blacklist my books? It’s not fair. And that seems all the more unfair because I have long been opposed to almost all censorship. Growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, I experienced first-hand the suffocating effects of that country’s morality police, whose focus included anything politically sensitive as defined by the white minority government. As a college professor, I taught a course on censorship to highlight to my students the price a society pays when it restricts free speech. Doesn’t karma demand that I in turn be a victim of censorship?

In 2015, my book entitled “Christians, Censorship and the Common Good” was published. It was a scholarly book that blended the two themes most important to me: my faith and my commitment to free speech. It sold barely 100 copies. Same for my book of Christian satires, “Jesus rises”. Didn’t these two volumes contain a profusion of examples that would offend, if not outrage, delicate souls? But no, not even a whisper of criticism, let alone calls for burning books or banning these titles from libraries, or anything else I’ve written. No American equivalent of a fatwa for me.

So, all of you aspiring book and banner burners, expand your horizons. Don’t discount the limitless potential for censorship-worthy material in hitherto little-known books like mine. Why not follow Richelieu’s example and start the “Give-Me-Six-Lines” militia? Your motto could be: “Read and condemn”. Richelieu would approve. And I, along with the other writers whose work you would condemn, would be so, so grateful for the attention.

Gordon S. Jackson is a retired author and journalism professor who resides in Spokane. His most recent book is The God Who Blesses (Kharis Publishing).

About Herbert L. Leonard

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