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Closed minds fuel censorship

Imagine a world where books are contraband on par with drugs or illegal guns. Imagine a culture where knowledge, facts and truth can only come from one source. Imagine a society where firemen, armed with kerosene, ignite the infernos instead of stopping them.

Legendary author Ray Bradbury did just that in 1953, painting a bleak picture of a dystopian society that may not be all that different from our own.

The novel “Fahrenheit 451,” named for the temperature at which book paper burns, shows one possible outcome of what happens when our society heads down the slippery slope of censorship.

Think this couldn’t happen in this day and age? Think again.

Today marks the start of Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the invaluable freedom we have to read and highlighting the necessity of free and open access to information. Led by the American Library Association and other sponsors, the self-state mission of the event is that it “brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.

Over the years, some true classics have been singled out. These include: “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald; “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger; “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck; “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee; “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker and “Ulysses,” by James Joyce.

The Boyd County Public Library will host several activities to focus on the importance of this week-long celebration.

In Bradbury’s version of the future, the lead character, a firefighter, ultimately sees the flaws in the society and helps try to change it.

“Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people’s heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from moths, silver-fish, rust and dry-rot, and men with matches,” Bradbury wrote.

In our version of the present, it isn’t men with matches we must fear but instead those with closed minds who want to extinguish ideas.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.