Monday, March 04, 2024

MY TURN: Freedom to read

by SARA MORROW/Guest Opinion
| May 12, 2023 1:00 AM

As a licensed psychologist specializing in pediatric mental health, it is concerning to see our society in such high distress, with seemingly ever-increasing anger, hate, conflict, anxiety and division permeating our nation, and our local community.

As a nearly lifelong resident of North Idaho, it is heartbreaking to see the loss of civility in our region. Never have neighbors hated and attacked one another as they do now. Never has there been such a loss of respect and politeness. Our children are watching and listening, and we are letting them down. We have lost our way. Unkindness is ruining our home.

Anger is a reactive surface-level emotion. Below the surface of anger and outrage is fear — fear of change, fear of uncertainty, fear of the “other.” We must all pause and see our individual anger, judgment, intolerance and unkindness and commit to doing better, to loving better. We must realize that there is no “other,” only the diversity of humanity, all of us in this together, all of us connected and all of us hurt by hatred.

Idaho has always been a sanctuary for personal freedoms. Our unspoken motto has traditionally been, “You do you, and let me do me.” Historically, we were able to disagree politely and calmly and agree to respect each other’s unique perspectives, beliefs and values. Lately, our community has become hostile, divided and hate-filled. This is not the Idaho that most of us have loved and appreciated for decades.

One area currently causing conflict in our community is the public libraries. It is true that there are books in the library that are disturbing, covering topics on the wide range of human suffering and trauma that unfortunately exist in way-too-high numbers. It is hard to read a book that portrays topics such as addiction, abuse and sexual violence. And, yet, these books are personally relevant to many, as sadly there are countless people on a hero’s journey out of their own darkness.

As parents, we ought to protect our own children from any media or exposure to things that we do not see as beneficial or healthy for them. But there is someone out there in need of every book. In need of seeing their story told, to feel seen and understood and to find guidance out of their own personal struggles.

Censorship is driven by fear and leads to ignorance. Banning books does not protect young people. In fact, it leaves them uninformed and, therefore, disempowered and more vulnerable.

If you don’t like a book, do not read it. Guide your own family by your personal values. Monitor your children’s choices and teach them as you see fit. But, please, do not take away an entire community’s freedom to read. There is value in having access to books that portray the diverse experiences of humanity. As we navigate these difficult and complicated times, my prayer is that we, as a community, find our way back to civility, respect and kindness.

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Sara Morrow, Ph.D., is a Hayden resident.