More Than Muslims, Remember Real Threat Today

11 09 2010

I’m a Southern girl born and bred. So I know a lot about burning — of books and flags and bridges, with passion and anger, repressed resentments and expressed bigotry. In my childhood culture, the resident gods saw everything in black and white and stayed too busy punishing teen sex with babies or at least shunning and damning Yankee carpetbaggers to hell from morning to night and twice on Sundays, to kindle culture war against furriner infidels.

The first book I loved enough to make me hate those who would burn it or ban it, was a bible as worth living by and dying for as any other, by god, the SOUTHERN bible — Gone With the Wind!

You never read it because it’s not your bible? Oh well, maybe you saw the movie, or at least a clip of the ignorant yet self-aggrandizing Prissy “don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies” as played by Butterfly McQueen, who as a real woman in real life read from many books and learned not to take its real meaning on faith:

What is the “faith of our forefathers” and how much faith does it have left in what’s right? Which identity is it we’re fighting to save, and which “them” is the real threat to it?

Their first class discussion was about the complex meaning of identity, thinking critically about how (and why) you define who you are as an individual within any society — or mob — relentlessly pressing individuals to conform with (often quite radical) norms.

Stubborn symbolic belief in “who we are” beyond all reason and science is all some folks have, the only story with any power to put them on top of a social group, and so they are willing to turn the sciences of larger society upside down, on the basis of that belief.

On this notorious day as Americans remember, reconstruct and reject both the best and worst of our national identity all at once — because whatever else we the people may be, we’re never easy! — the images of hate in my mind aren’t of burning towers but burning books, burning flags, burning bigotry and yes, burning flesh.

Thinking Citizens believe the power of story is in all books, not just One Book to Rule Them All. Bibli- meaning books plural btw, not one common story for all public life. Like the “canon” then? Yep, bible and canon begat belief only in the books on the authority-approved list, and believing in THAT that has made all the difference for humankind. Read on if you dare.

Teaching My Own “Faith” to My Kids

Religion is Story and so is everything else the human mind can conceive or believe. Amen.

We’re not much for church or school, but we live for Story (doesn’t everybody somehow or another?) Musical theatre, libraries, bookshops and movies are our personal venues of worship, the wellsprings of story through which my family lives and learns and engages ideas and cultures.

Some Americans don’t live by the same beliefs about beliefs we do, of course:

Did he know what he would be burning?

. . . the challenge for Muslims [AND EVERYBODY ELSE!] in this trying situation is to behave and perform as cited in the very book they said they were trying to save.

Origin of BIBLE
Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin biblia, from Greek, plural of biblion book, diminutive of byblos papyrus, book, from Byblos, ancient Phoenician city from which papyrus was exported

First Known Use: 14th century
Rhymes with BIBLE:
“libel, scribal, tribal”

The word “canon” etymologically means cane or reed. In early Christianity “canon” referred to a list of books approved for public reading. Books not on the list were referred to as “apocryphal” — meaning they were for private reading only. Under Latin usage from the fourth century on, canon came to stand for a closed and authoritative list in the sense of rule or norm.

Finally, for Thinking Parents who read all the books, who see power in all the stories right or wrong and no such thing as one canon, here’s what’s most wrong with righteous burning of anything or anyone, anywhere and especially in the South:

It’s a modern media retelling of Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”, in which a gang of Islamaphobes, cast in the role of Addie Bundren, bamboozle the media into carrying their coffin full of malevolence on a journey of pure debasement.



4 responses

11 09 2010

Wonder-ful Tradition of Philosophy and Science:

. . . But as intelligent and reasonable as humans now may be, people the world over including our own American media when the cartoonish becomes scary enough, still pretend and defer to religious claims that divinity plays humanity like puppets in a scripted play . . .

Thus in the third millennium “there is no bigger subject than God” and religious leaders still can bully this modern world into abandoning it all — our hard-earned philosophy, science and reason — via their (heavenly or hellish?) weapons of mass destruction, from controlling education, information and economic progress, to genital mutilation and genocide, to the increasing threat of nuclear bombs.

11 09 2010

“The one un-American act that could defeat us . . .” written before JJ was born, which was a LONG time back through the last century! 😉

We who believe in a free society . . . must invent new political methods, if we are to enlist the peoples of the world in a new front.

It is our attitude toward free thought and free expression that will determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies. We need all the ingenuity we possess [and] . . . leadership that makes a virtue of courage, of conviction and freedom of expression.

The pre-eminent problem of this age is the invention of new institutions, new political methods for aligning the people of the world in a true crusade for freedom. The ingenuity will be lacking if fear . . . shrinks the world of ideas to one school of thought, to one point of view. Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.

This is a condensation of a talk by Justice [William O.] Douglas to the Authors Guild Council. . . on receiving the 1951 Lauterbach Award.

13 09 2010

(Flaming cock of the snook to Meg for this link)

I realized that I had missed the broadest and most direct meaning behind book burning. The problem was that I was thinking from the perspective of the burner, with a removed cerebral approach. And burning books is not removed or cerebral.

When someone burns a book that I value highly, they are looking me straight in the eye and saying, “I hate you.”

Regardless of anything else that might or might not be symbolized by the act, it conjures up the worst parts of human history. Fire is death. When we burn someone’s book, we are burning a part of them in effigy. And no amount of ironic symbolism can take that element away from it.

23 09 2011
Judy Blume: “Children are the real losers . . .” « Cocking A Snook!

[…] there are lots of book-burning related posts through the years, most notoriously this and maybe this from 9/11 last year: On this notorious day as Americans remember, reconstruct and reject both the […]

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