For many reasons, I have been considering the history of censorship, the way that various people and groups have sought to silence certain voices throughout history. I’m pretty much a rule-follower, but I am very passionate about people’s freedom to speak the truth as they see it. It’s not often that I get passionate about a right – but freedom of speech, well, that one gets me riled up.

So today I thought I’d peruse some censored art and news and share it with you.

1. Painter Robert Sherer – His male nudes have been censored because they pervert “God’s natural order by placing men in women’s positions” (Artist’s website). He portrays the male body in poses that are traditionally reserved for the female body in art, and I find the paintings beautiful, honest, vulnerable, erotic but not pornographic, and lovely.
\"Pick-Up\" by Robert Sherer – “Pickup” by Robert Sherer

I also find his other work to be gorgeous and mildly fantastical. His pieces are embued with the light of dusk or dawn, those liminal moments when all things are possible.
Dare by Robert Sherer – “Dare” by Robert Sherer

2. Banned Books – We all know that Huckleberry Finn has been banned fairly frequently because of the language of the book, never mind that it’s historically accurate not to mention politically savvy on Twain’s part. Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man, also had his writing censored and was ultimately forced into exile because of his work. Then, of course, we all know the irony of banning Fahrenheit 451, the book about book banning.

3. Photos of U.S. soldiers who were killed in action and the Iraqi civilians killed in the war. – You have probably heard about the edict against showing images of the soldiers’ bodies returning home; that is official U.S. policy. A more tacit policy seems to also be that we don’t show the human toll of war in general anymore, unless it’s in a Hollywood blockbuster that we can dismiss. How can we not honor the price of battle? We must see the devastation of war to understand it’s costs.

U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq – Soldiers KIA Return to the U.S.

Women and Children Flee in Iraq – Iraqi Women and Children Flee

4. The Subtle Forms of Censorship We Experience Every Day – the ways we change our words (or our writing) so as not to offend,risk scorn, or retribution, the ways we encourage people to not read or see something because it doesn’t jive with our sensibility, the ways we simply do not speak when we see injustice or pain in the world. I am as guilty of these as others – especially today – but until powerful people use their power to uplift those who don’t have it, until our leaders see equality of voice and economics as something to be attained, we must all weigh the price of freedom with the price of silence. I don’t have scales big enough for this.

From the Quran – An-Nisa (The Women)

4:135 O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. [150] Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!