In response to Mary’s insights about bans on tattoos: I personally feel that it is absolutely an infringement on one’s right to self-expression when we ban tattoos. Furthermore, I think that the general conceptions mainstream society ascribes to individuals with tattoos create an environment where people are supposed to feel ashamed or self-conscious about their bodies; and I find this aspect to be the most upsetting of all. The articles on tattoo bans are outrageous. Even if someone does not personally feel inclined to get a tattoo or tattoos does not mean that other people should be judged for their decisions to do so. This form of expression is just one aspect of who a particular person is and should not be taken as signifiers of who they are altogether, but at the same time, why are tattoos considered to be something bad at all? No one has the right to dictate who or what another individual is or chooses to do as long as it is not doing harm to others.
One of the most striking things I have taken from this semester is the recognition of how scared people are. I think I knew this before, but working with, and discussing banned books and reasons for why things are banned has made me even more aware of how much society seeks to control and close itself off from things that are different, or from challenges to a set and accepted social convention. There is such a strong undertone of paranoia and taboo which drives so much of how society functions, and it has people paralyzed with fear to an extent that they do not even fully recognize or understand.
The children’s literature genre, in particular, must face this problem even more so. Adults want to protect their children from that which they see has harmful. There is more “justification” available to control what children are reading. But is it not more devastating to protect young children from the world only to have them discover the truths and ugliness later on? Isn’t there some sort of a balance where kids can be protected but not deluded?
In the Hettinga article, L’Engle is described as a “spiritual explorer” who refuses to be “pigeonholed.” Her writing is not tidy or controllable, and she does not clearly define herself. Although she is a Christian and a writer, L’Engle is often met with criticism from conservative Christians. I think this is because she does not stick to a preset, accepted version of what Christianity is considered to be.
L’Engle is not afraid to push her readers towards a message even if that message is something society does not address. The childhood icons of a blanket or loved stuffed animal express how L’Engle’s icons say more than what they literally represent. “The blanket…is not a blanket, nor is the animal a mere animal, they are icons of all-rightness in a world that early shows itself to be not all right.” For L’Engle, suffering is an essential part of life (Abernethy). She feels that it brings one closer to God and indicates that one has lived, but society tries in vain to shelter children and does not allow them to grieve for the circumstance inherent in their mere existence.
Children are much more perceptive than most adults tend to believe. L’Engle believes that we must risk in life. To be intimate and vulnerable with others is to risk, and there is a great fear in doing so. People, like penguins, “avoid intimacy to avoid pain” (Hettinga). But pain is not something one can or should want to avoid because it is a part of life and a part of being human. L’Engle has her own way of looking at the world and of reflecting on it. Her writing pushes readers to confront difficult and often uncomfortable questions and then deal with them.
Young readers should not be underestimated. Galbraith touches upon an interesting point when she recognizes “a shared human predicament of existence.” Children are similar to adults insofar as they are human beings and then peers. Children are often able to see things that adults can no longer see for themselves. Like children, adults want to believe in something, but children are simply closer to and more in touch with this very human desire. Rather than trying to keep children protected from the questions they will naturally come to, they should be stimulated and given the opportunities to explore further these very questions as they are presented in various works of literature.