Believe it or not, I AVOID mentioning non-movie-related political stuff on this blog lately because A.) it requires an up-to-the-minute-ness I just don’t have time for and B.) I’d really rather not suddenly turn myself into a “public relations” liability for the various professional entities I’m involved with. BUT, sometimes there are “implications” or tangential questions to political stuff that I actually feel like speaking on and/or having a conversation about, so… here’s the deal: The (in my opinion) not-controversial part goes here BEFORE the jump, and if you feel like hearing a self-important movie critic prattle about more specific/dicey stuff you can keep reading AFTER the jump. Okay?
Okay. THIS, I think, oughtn’t be at all controversial: The Pastor in Florida (no links, no names, he’s gotten enough free publicity) who’s behind “International Burn A Koran Day” is SCUMBAG, simple as that. Furthermore, anyone trying to draw some kind of “equivalency” between this douche and his nutcase “congregation” and the folks who want to build an Islamic Community Center two blocks from “Ground Zero” is – at best – being incredibly dumb. But, yeah: Guy’s a scumbag, hope he doesn’t do it, etc.
More after the jump.
This whole thing has made me ask a question I don’t think I’d have otherwise ever considered asking: Does “book burning” MATTER now as much as it once did?
Now, right off the bat – YES, I understand that the books in question here are Holy Texts which has a whole other dimension of taboo attached to desecration. I get that. That said… look, I’m not especially religious myself so, forgive my perhaps lacking sympathy, but… from where I sit, while I have nothing but CONTEMPT for the pastor pulling this stunt, honestly I have something close (not equal, but close) to the same contempt for anyone of any faith who reacts to this sort of “nyah nyah” affront with retaliative violence or even tacit “approval” of such.
Look, I’d more “get” the outrage if this asshole had, let’s say, snatched up a bunch of sanctified Korans from local Mosques and he was going to burn those. Or if it was a hand-written, one-of-a-kind Koran from the 12th Century, something like that – or a collection of Islamic Holy Relics; that sort of thing. Being angry about that I get. That crosses the “that which can never be replaced” symbolic-destruction line between “you’re a jerk” and “you’re Hitler.” Still not sure I “get” throwing a bomb over it, but I get being infuriated and hurt and soured on the whole “getting along” thing.
But what’s actually set to happen here? A few dozen idiot rednecks in Florida burning a bunch of cheap, mass-produced, assembly-line-printed copies of The Koran they picked up at Barnes & Noble? I’m sorry, like I said I get being PISSED at the juvenille “screw you!” taunting aspect of it… but I’m just don’t get the “blasphemy” of this sort of thing, in Islam or otherwise. The whole concept of commercially-produced “sacredness” is part of what turned me off (organized) religion in the first place. I was an Altar Boy back in Catholic School, I distinctly remember that actually seeing all the “holy” accoutremants like Sacremental Wine, Holy Water, Communion Wafers, Incense, etc. coming out of shipping boxes (Communion – aka “The Body of Christ” – came in big air-sealed bags like store-brand cereal!) being one of the bigger “wait a minute…” turning points. I just can’t wrap my head around – or “empathize” much with – being “jihad-level” angry at THIS particular act. I mean, wasn’t there just an actual full-fledged Mosque hit by an arson attempt in (I think) Tennessee? If so, why is this a bigger deal than that?
But… whatever, that’s just one cranky Agnostic’s perspective on the matter. If you genuinely believe in sacredness and holy writ and whatnot, I imagine it makes more sense. I respect that – I don’t get it – but I respect it.
Thing is, just ruminating on THAT point is what made me ponder whether or not – in the broader sense – any book-burning ought to “mean” much anymore. Again, as with the specific Koran case, I’m not talking about First Editions or rare pieces or irreplacable texts – I mean regular, off-the-shelf, 800-copies-taking-up-space-at-Borders books. Should this still be a HUGE taboo in 2010?
I understand the longstanding symbolism of book burning – the idea of “purging” an idea from the world in it’s purest concrete form, and I agree it’s disgusting symbolism and I’d never willingly burn even an “evil” book. But the thing is, the reason it was ever seen as SO abhorrent – both the reason that the Nazis did it and why we condemn them for doing it – is because it wasn’t solely a symbolic act: Until fairly recently, it actually was concievable that if you put you’re mind to it you really could burn an idea or a story out of existance by burning enough copies of it. THAT was the nightmare-scenario of “Fahrenheit 451,” not just the burning of books but the extraordinary lengths one would have to go to to preserve the ideas and stories within them.
You see where I’m going with this, right? “Burn all the books?” Well, okay, do-able in theory… but are they ALSO making sure to track and down and fully-destroy all the trillions of discs, flash-drives and even SD Cards that can hold hundreds of thousands of books? And even if that, are they also going to scrub the entire Internet, The Cloud, the “Singularity,” whatever, too? For all practical purposes, The Digital Age has essentially rendered “Fahrenheit” an all-but-impossible scenario. Books – and all that they entail – are safer now than they have EVER been. Think about it for a minute, it’s really kind of monumental. Memo to Mr. Bradbury: The good guys won, thanks for the head’s up.
(Damn, but this turned out long) So, what I’m getting at here is: Are we giving all asshole book-burners way too much “power” by still treating their actions as anything more than a purely symbolic act of douchebaggery when technology has essentially made it a meaningless, futile gesture? Or is this a rare moment of misplaced optimism on my part?
Alright, so that’s my “piece” on this. Once again, pastor guy is a jackass, anyone who reacts to pastor guy with violence is also a jackass, burning the Koran is wrong, book burning of any kind of wrong, terrorism is wrong, can’t-we-just-get-along, etc. It’s late, goin’ to bed now.