Saturday found me in a local drugs store stocking up on writing chocolate. As I was musing over the choices a woman came in and struck up a conversation with someone in the nearby pharmacy section. Even though my mind was on my most important concern I overheard bits of their talk.
“I don’t know how anyone could waste their time reading.”
My ears pricked up and my blood began to simmer.
“…got a friend who likes her romances. And when she wants a break, she reads something different!”
Then older of the two turned up my blood from simmer to boil. “… must have 5,000 books in my basement. Maybe I should just have a big bonfire.”
I’m all for freedom of speech, but some things shouldn’t be joked about, not after the book burnings of the last century.
Some people rescue puppies, others devote their time to saving historical buildings, with me it’s books. I don’t like to see them suffer.
I have to hold myself back at garage sales because I feel a deep need to rescue every book. They need good homes, someone who’ll care for them and gaze lovingly upon their spines on the shelf.
My breathing was rapid and shallow.
I will take your books.
I took my chocolate and went to pay for it.
The clerk noted how I was the second person that day to buy that amount of chocolate.
“It’s my writing chocolate.” I felt the need to express myself as writer and therefore someone who respects books, not jokes about torching them.
I forced myself to walk out of the store and not back to the woman to ask her to please tell me she was kidding.
Years ago I rescued a book from a fire. It’s an awful book all about conspiracy and the new world order. It’s written to charge up the emotions and that makes it hard to maintain rational thought. It’s easy to believe the lies and half-truths when you’re in a frenzy of paranoid fear.
It has a right to exist. If we go about burning books with which we don’t agree we’ll never see the other side of anything. Worse, we’ll forget why they’re so bad because we’ll have forgotten dissent exists.
Ignoring something won’t make it go away. Education makes it go away. We need to keep ideas in the forefront so they can be discussed and disseminated and argued.
If they’re good we need to know. If they’re bad we need to know why.
Perhaps this is a bit far afield from a woman who made a joke about having so many books, but there’ll be no book burning on my watch.
Some Useful Thoughts from Outside the Field
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