We’re Still Burning Books?


I’m beginning to fear the future, and this is not because my father thinks Obama is the Antichrist (although that, too, is of possible concern.) It’s not because Folly Beach is thinking about prohibiting alcohol. No, I’m beginning to fear the future because it’s 2009, and we’re still talking about burning books.

For your consideration: “A fight over books depicting sex and homosexuality has riled up a small Wisconsin city, cost some library board members their positions, and prompted a call for a public book burning.” This snippet is thanks to CNN, and yesterday, it made my room spin.

Here’s the deal: in West Bend, WI, Jim and Ginny Maziarka (or as I call them, “two people who will soon appear in my nightmares”) objected to content in the city library’s young-adult section, saying some of the books included homosexual and heterosexual content inappropriate for youths.

One of my favorite lines in the article: “She and her husband also asked the library to obtain books about homosexuality that affirmed heterosexuality, such as titles written by ‘ex-gays,’ Maziarka said.” Don’t even get me started on the idea of an “ex-gay,” as if homosexuality is akin to alcoholism or addiction to crystal meth.

But it gets worse: “The Maziarkas [are] still fighting to have books moved, having identified 82 questionable titles—more than double their original list.” So their list is growing. Soon, they’ll outlaw The Little Prince because it was written by a French dude, and OBVIOUSLY French dudes are evil because they all wear berets and smoke cigarettes. Right? RIGHT?!

But wait for it. Wait for it. There’s MORE: “Outside West Bend, the fight caught the attention of Robert Braun, who, with three other Milwaukee-area men, filed a claim against West Bend calling for one of the library’s books to be publicly burned.” (Sigh.) What would Ray Bradbury say?

fahrenheit451Growing up, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was one of my favorite books. It’s still one of my favorite books, because every time I read it, I’m still just as terrified. It’s about Guy Montag—a fireman who exists in a future America where free thinking/reading is outlawed. So basically, the definition of “Montag, Fireman” is actually “Montag, Book-Burner.” Accordingly, the firemen burn books “for the good of humanity.” Censorship replaces freedom. Free thought falls apart. Intellectual Armageddon. Can’t you just FEEL me shivering over here?

I wonder if Ginny and Robert have read Fahrenheit 451. I wonder if they would like it burned, too, alongside all the books about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Maybe I’m grumpy today. Maybe I’m overly sensitive where books are concerned. Or maybe I’m freaking out for a damn fine reason, because I just can’t believe that in our so-called modern, forward-thinking society, we’re still talking about burning books.

No matter how far we get from the days of Nazi Germany and piles of torched Whitman, Emerson, and Nabokov, we’re never far enough, are we? There will always be the angry outcry for censorship. There will always be fun-suckers, and people will always be offended by this or that. I might be naïve on occasion, but I get it. I know someone out there will always be pissed.

But I’m afraid today because the world keeps getting smaller. The internet keeps us in touch with each other moment-by-moment, thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter. Ginny and Robert can TWEET about censorship, and it’ll reach a mass audience faster than it ever did in Bradbury’s day. The poison has the opportunity to spread, and if it does, where will I go?

I can’t go to my apartment pool, because management doesn’t like me. Soon, I won’t be able to go to Folly Beach and have a beer, because the policemen will write me a thousand-dollar ticket for enjoying my day off. Then, I won’t be able to hide in the library, because it’ll be on fire. There’s only so much room up in the mountains, so I’m staking out a spot now. In twenty years, feel free to come visit. I’ll be up where sky touches earth, reading an illegal copy of Fahrenheit 451 with “West Bend Community Memorial Library” stamped on the cover.

For the full CNN story: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/22/wisconsin.book.row/index.html. For more info about West Bend: http://westbendparentsforfreespeech.webs.com/.

6 thoughts on “We’re Still Burning Books?

  1. Lest I forget…I also know of a book riddled with homosexuality, incest, adultery, genocide, and about every immoral, perverse act one can think of. Shall we suggest that West Bend start with the King James Version as kindling? The great light in the dark concerning all of this is, when people hear about it, they run out and read the books involved in the “controversy”. Touche’!

  2. i was researching fahrenheit 451 (among others like it) when i clicked on the link that led me to this page. after reading the summary of the book, i put it on my christmas reading list. as if banning it from the freakin school library was enough, now they want to burn a perfectly good book to try and prove a point.
    funny how they wanna protect humanity by burning a book warning against trying to protect humanity by burning books.

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