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Book Bans & Burnings

I will try as much as possible to keep politics out of this blog, but there are certain topics, such as book bans and burnings that are too important for me to keep silent on.

There has been a lot in the news lately about banning books, specifically in states that fall on the republican side of the political divide. (Looking at you, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas.) This is so concerning on so many levels, and for so many reasons.

It starts with the concept of American Exceptionalism, which is teaching history with a certain slant, specifically that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world and that as Americans, we are exceptional for our virtues, morals, and our democracy. It completely washes over and ignores the ugly truths in our history, namely the enslaving of people simply for their race (yes, primarily Africans, but also Chinese and Filipinos among others), something which our entire country was founded upon, not evening mentioning the genocide committed against Native Peoples, such as the Trail of Tears.

How does American Exceptionalism and the erasing of "ugly" American history factor into book bans and burnings? It comes down to the abbreviated concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT) which we hear about in the news all the time now. A certain type of traditionally conservative parent does not want CRT taught in schools because they don't want their precious White child "made" to "feel guilty" about the atrocities committed throughout American history.

This is erroneous and disingenuous because said precious White child has not personally committed any of these historical atrocities for the simple reason that these atrocities are historical, in our collective past. It is called "history" for a reason. However, these past atrocities have shaped and defined American culture and society for over 150 years. CRT looks to teach the true history of the United States of America, in such a way as to open minds and begin to unravel the racist, and later, homophobic, threads in our society.

How does CRT relate to the banning and burning of books? It's because so many of the books being banned and burned are by authors of color and LGBTQIA+. There are so many authors in America and of other nationalities that are being banned simply because they are speaking their truth.

Why are book bans and burnings so problematic? Because they are nearly always instigated by ultra-conservative governments trying to eradicate the narratives and stories that run counter to their beliefs, and more to the point, the beliefs that they are keen to impose on others.

Nazi Germany is hardly the only example of this, but an apt one, and extremely relevant given the state of things in America today. The Nazis burned books that they considered to be subversive, which means "tending or intending to subvert, overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system, especially a legally constituted government or set of beliefs."

To break this down to its most simplistic form: the Nazis burned books that didn't adhere to Nazi doctrine and beliefs. This included Jewish authors, socialist authors like Karl Marx, great minds like Albert Einstein and Helen Keller, storytellers like Ernest Hemmingway, and thousands and thousands of others, simply because the Nazis felt that these authors' works were counter to Nazi indoctrination and ideals.

"But... America is not Nazi Germany!" you say. Well given the current trajectory we are on, that statement rings alarmingly hollow. Book bans and burnings are antithetical to our First Amendment right to free speech. As Americans, we cannot revere our right to free speech while also banning and burning books that are meant to make people question, take stock, and in general, think about the world as they know it.

So when I see states like Florida and Tennessee banning and burning books, it scares the hell out of me. I think it's absolutely terrifying that we Americans are seeing the exact mentality here that kicked off the start of Nazi Germany.

If you're not afraid, you should be.


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