This week, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library promised to donate over 1,000 free copies of the author’s classic Slaughterhouse-Five to teachers and students in Brevard County, Florida, where the book is currently being challenged by the group Moms for Liberty, the Indy Star reports.
“You have misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘liberty,'” wrote Julia A. Whitehead, the founder and CEO of the Museum, in a statement. “Removing someone else’s privilege of reading a book is an act that is worthy of rebellion. But we don’t actually have to rebel because these are our rights as Americans. We just simply have to help the school officials and elected officials to understand that the Constitution is our law of the land. The whims of one group of moms is not the law of the land.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Vonnegut’s books have been challenged in this country, and he had plenty to say about the phenomenon—and not just as it pertained to his own work. In his “autobiographical collage” Palm Sunday, Vonnegut wrote:
Here is how I propose to end book-banning in this country once and for all: Every candidate for school committee should be hooked up to a lie detector and asked this question: “Have you read a book from start to finish since high school?” or “Did you even read a book from start to finish in high school?”
If the truthful answer is “no,” then the candidate should be told politely that he cannot get on the school committee and blow off his big bazoo about how books make children crazy.
Whenever ideas are squashed in this country, literate lovers of the American experiment write careful and intricate explanations of why all ideas must be allowed to live. It is time for them to realize that they are attempting to explain America at its bravest and most optimistic to orangutans.
From now on, I intend to limit my discourse with dimwitted Savonarolas to this advice: “Have somebody read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution out loud to you, you God damned fool!”
Well—the American Civil Liberties Union or somebody like that will come to the scene of trouble, as they always do. They will explain what is in the Constitution, and to whom it applies.
They will win.
And there will be millions who are bewildered and heartbroken by the legal victory, who think some things should never be said—especially about religion.
They are in the wrong place at the wrong time.