Thursday, February 23, 2012

Burn My Books. I Won't Kill You in Retaliation.

You may have heard that copies of the Qur’an were incinerated by Americans at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. I don't know how many copies were burned or whether it was intentional, but I know that people have been killed in response.

Yes, whoever did the burning was stupid and wrong. However it happened, it is inexcusable. But to kill and threaten people with harm over it? I don't understand.

Listen, I own a copy of the Torah. If you have a copy, please feel free to burn it without fear of physical retribution from me. I think it's a waste of a book and a waste of fire, but go ahead.

I have a nice copy of the Tanakh. I have an interlinear version (Hebrew-English) of the Psalms. I have the Tanya. I have an English version of the Koran. I have the Analects by Confucius. I have the Tzo Te Ting. Burn your own copies, if you must.

I also have books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris--yes, atheist books. I have a Charles Darwin collection and Prothero's book on evolution and fossils. I have a Hawking's A Brief History of Time, Einstein's Ideas and Opinions, and several scientific and non-scientific works of Richard Feynman. Drive a hot spike through copies of these. You have my permission.

I have a complete Plato, a selected Aristotle, a full Shakespeare, and complete works of Chaucer and Milton. Incinerate your versions, accidentally or on purpose.

I have several novels by Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Milan Kundera, Thomas Pynchon, Thomas Mann, Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy, Albert Camus, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Henry Fielding, Charlotte Bronte, Marcel Proust, Cynthia Ozick, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, and others. These works are yours for the flames.

I have poetry collections by Byron, Donne, Frost, Whitman, Olson, Oppen, Neruda, Homer, Keats, Yeats, Jabes, Machado, Rimbaud, Langland, Walcott, Williams, Zukofsky and more. Brand them, shred them, discard them.

I have books on Auschwitz and Anglo-Saxon England, on the history of ancient Israel and the history of Jews in America. I have books on wikinomics and personal finance; on German, Yiddish, Swedish, and Chinese; on reading, writing, visualizing, and decision-making; and on architecture, Picasso's art, Coltrane's jazz, and medieval illuminated manuscripts. Take them, take them.

I have books by Derrida and Foucault, Hume and Max, Marcus Aurelius and the Venerable Bede, Boethius and Churchill, Lincoln and Jefferson, Herodotus and Virgil, Aquinas and Augustine, Maimonides and Keith Richards. I would be heartbroken if you thought it was cool to burn these books, but you may do it if it gets your rocks off.

Destroy it all. I love all my books, but I won't call for your death. I won't threaten your family or your countrymen and countrywomen.

Whatever you do to books will not stop me from reading. You won't prevent me from learning. Whatever symbolic point you might be making does not affect me. You burn because you fear, because you are consumed. Your fire doesn't touch me.

Go on and incinerate books in full knowledge of your safety. Your burning only pollutes the environment and symbolizes your final impotence.

1 comment:

  1. Books are not sacred things. If someone wants to burn one. Fine. Wipe their ass with it, have at it.

    We can always plant a tree, water it, nurture it, care for it... then cut it down and print another book.

    So what's the big deal anyway? It's not as if there aren't enough books in the world. Especially really bad shoddy ones filled with nonsense, like the Koran.

    I generally don't like the idea of burning good books. Emphasis on the "good" part. But I wouldn't hesitate to toss a piece of crap L. Ron Hubbard novel into a bonfire if it meant a few added minutes of roasting marshmallows and enjoy time with friends and family by the orange glow by the fireside.


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