Evolving Peace

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Book Memorial

Although, today is Memorial Day and there could be hundreds of war related issues I could write about, I have decided to let the day pass with every one’s own personal reflection of war. Currently a war wages half way around the globe and while I see the miseries from a far I caught a story on-line from Kansas City, Missouri. The topic of this story is about book burning and while we can say it is inherently bad to burn books; this case however is a protest.

We have had in our recent history religious leaders and other citizen groups righteously calling for the banning of books and likewise world political leaders have organized public book burning displays and so no where before has a situation like this occurred before. Out in Kansas City Tom Wayne, proprietor of Prospero’s Books has a stockpile of books that he just can’t seem to sell, donate or just give away. So, it is not censoring of the latest book on gay sex or the corruption of Republican or Democratic politics but a mere display of how people do not read anymore. It is shocking for me to realize that fact since myself nor is my partner that way. Literally at all times, in every corner of our house is a book waiting to be started or finished.

While it is disturbing to see books burning it can make you realize of how estranged society has come from learning. We are supposedly in the “Age of Information”, but walk into a majority of homes in America and I bet that you will find more television sets and computers than books on display. I always have people questioning me where I get the time to read and I ponder that thought on occasion. While statistically the average American watches over four hours of television a day, I just wonder where the average American gets the time for that. Four hours of television, added on top of the time to work, time to commute, and sleep leaves no time at all for anything else in the day. No wonder why so many Americans are either on prescription drugs, alcohol or illicit drugs, since they need to medicate themselves into the mindless world of television.

In affect no longer does the country need large scale book burnings from religious fanatics or politicos since the populace voluntarily censors itself. While we are supposedly at “the Age of Information” less and less Americans are reading and it makes no difference to the public if their access is denied. All across America, books stores are closing and despite the emergence of large scale stores like Barns and Noble and Borders Americans are self subjecting themselves to censorship. Their world might as well be Fox’s latest reality show and that the SUV is truly the heartbeat of America.

A patron of Mr. Wayne’s store sums it well with this quote, "I think, given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it's the best way to do it," and. "(Wayne has) made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it." People all throughout the land are removing themselves from learning and becoming mere machines in the materialized world. I fear that in our age of digital technology more and more people will distance themselves from reading and as a result the harsh reality of George Orwell’s 1984 truly becomes a reality rather than mere science fiction.

As the population digresses further from gaining their information from books society is losing the ability to think creatively or critically, thus dismantling the myth of “The Age of Information.” We as a society may be able to acquire the news about Jennifer Anniston or the recipe for strawberry shortcake in a matter of seconds; however our minds are losing the abilities to think for themselves and that is more detrimental than the burning of a single book.

Robb Kidd

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” Barbara W. Tuchman, American Historian.


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