Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9-11: Writing is Dangerous, Writing is Freedom

I just read a powerful post on facebook by the YA author Ellen Hopkins. In it, she reminds all of us,

"In America, the First Amendment grants us the right to believe, to worship, to speak our minds as we please. There is a responsibility that comes with that, however. Responsible Americans do not burn books or flags or places of worship. Responsible Americans do not... use words to divide and make people hate each other simply because they’re different."

Writers have always known the power of words. Poets have been no less than lined up before firing squads for speaking the truth about their oppressive governments. Words of resistance have gotten authors banned, banished, killed, and fatwa-ed. Hear the words of Wole Soyinka who wrote that, "Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.” Ask American poet and writer Audre Lorde, who, in her iconic “Cancer Journals” reminded us all that “silence has never brought us anything of worth.”

Or ask Salman Rushdie whose words earned him a whole worldwide fatwa, and who said that “A poet's work is to name the un-nameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep."

Words are powerful. And sometimes dangerous. Yes. Writers can say things with which we don't always agree. Absolutely. But when we as a society begin burning books - books of worship, or any other book - in the name of freedom, we commit a grave act that threatens that very freedom.

Let us remember those who died, and those who are still here, by promoting a more just and peaceful world. Let us use 9-11 to search for a world where words are sacred - words we agree with, words we don't agree with, words from holy books, and words from everyday books.

In fact, it makes me proud to be beginning my journey as a children's writer on a day like today. Because as we know, sometimes, the stories of children -- stories of equality, stories of peace, stories of justice -- are the most subversive ones of all.

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