I am the same age as Karenna Gore, the oldest of Tipper and Al Gore’s four children. Karenna and I were both about 11 years old when Prince’s Purple Rain was released. I imagine that, like me, Karenna was probably raised on good music. Her mother had once played drums with the Grateful Dead, after all. But for any preteen with even a little bit of an independent streak, it’s not enough to have great albums at your fingertips—we had to find our own music.

One wouldn’t think it would be easy to rebel against baby boomer parents who rebelled hard against their own parents’ generation. Prince gave us not only a new sound but a music revolution for our very own generation.

“Darling Nikki” was a nasty song on that album about a “sex fiend” named Nikki, who’s described at the beginning of the song as masturbating in a hotel lobby. When Karenna’s mother overheard the lyrics her daughter was listening to, her parental instincts kicked into high gear. A form of protectionism that many of us parents experience, at one time or another, went a bit haywire. Despite the fact that she herself was a musician, she set out to identify other songs that might entice her daughter, her friends, or children everywhere to become deviants. This fear led her to cofound the Parents Music Resource Center, which slapped warning labels on albums containing explicit lyrics.Darling Nikki” topped their list of 15 popular “filthy” songs that would become known as the Filthy Fifteen, which, for my generation, became the definitive list of every song that every teen should know every word to. It was Tipper that became the dirty word to many of us for years to come.

This was far from the first time that First Amendment rights of the many had been challenged by the well-meaning few who took it upon themselves to protect more “vulnerable” populations.

In 1984, Catharine A. MacKinnon, a law professor and activist in the women’s movement, had become increasingly convinced that sexually explicit material harmed women in their quest for equality and potentially led directly to violence against women, including rape. She sought to ban pornography by treating it as a civil rights violation rather than as a form of speech. Those in the book industry, including the American Booksellers Association, rejected this claim for fear of the precedent it could set in threatening free speech. U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker agreed, reminding MacKinnon and her supporters that “in terms of altering sociological patterns, much as alteration may be necessary and desirable, free speech, rather than being the enemy, is a long-tested and worthy ally.”

Throughout history, there have been challenges to and violations of the First Amendment. It is the very tool that paved the way for the abolition of slavery and the right to vote for most of our citizens and so many of our other freedoms. It has given us a voice. Unfortunately, it has been used to threaten to take our voices away, most often in the name of protection, by those like Gore and MacKinnon who, no doubt, had the best intentions. They envisioned a more equal, just, and safe America, but rather than working to create this world from the bottom up, they attempted to force it from the top down. This never works, nor should it. Imposing one’s will on the masses, in the pursuit of a utopian society, won’t work in a democracy of citizens who are paying attention.

This time, astonishingly, the threat is coming from within. The American Booksellers Association recently abandoned its long-held defense of the First Amendment by removing it from its ends policies. Like Gore, a musician who went after musicians, the ABA is leaving authors and publishers to twist in the wind of the whims of a new generation of idealistic booksellers who see “harm” and “potential violence” in the very books they sell. Or do not sell. Some call it “curation,” but curation is what we all physically do in our stores—what we stock on our shelves and promote through displays or marketing. Make no mistake about it, flat out refusing to sell books with which they disagree (for a seemingly growing number of reasons) is not curation; it is suppression. It is a violation of the rights of grown-up readers to choose for themselves what they might like to read for whatever reasons they might like to read it. My customers don’t need protection, and they certainly don’t need me to provide it to them.

Booksellers who cut their teeth on a solid diet of nonfiction can tell you that history often repeats itself. And if history is to be our guide, I’m not sure how the ABA will recover from the irrelevance it will soon share with the likes of Tipper Gore and Catharine A. MacKinnon.