I have been tempted to sigh and turn away from the current debates about which people should be allowed to build cultural centers and where they should be allowed to build them, as election year politcking. It’s not terribly surprising that the farthest of the right wing of political thought and those who want to herd them to the polls this November would attempt to make political and social hay out of a building permit.
But now I fear it’s about to get ugly. I fear we’re descending straight into old-fashioned, made in the USA, fear-mongering with all the trimmings. We’ve seen this before, aimed at a wide spectrum of immigrants or political thought and it’s rolling right back around. The “Dove World Outreach Center” in Gainsville, Florida is going to go ahead and start burning books. Specifically, qurans.
So, here we are. To express love of country, patriotism, memory, a book — the holy text of one of the world’s largest religions — of has got to burn.
Thankfully, and to their credit, the majority of the religious leaders in Gainsville have come together to oppose this demonstration of ignorance and bigotry, and will be organizing a gathering for understanding and outreach. Which is the American character, indeed the human character, at its best.
Personally, I’ve got no words to express my sadness at watching my country descend into the terrors generated by the fear of their neighbors, or the fury at seeing hatred cynically whipped up for political gain. Fortunately, Christian author and philosopher C.S. Lewis does. He gives the following words to his character the demon Screwtape when speaking of how to best destroy a soul:
“Hatred is best when combined with Fear. Cowardice alone of all the vices is purely painful — horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember. Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear.”
Because that is exactly what is happening here, and that is all that is happening here. There is no patriotism, no protection of community, or ideals or the ever-popular meaningless catch phrase “way of life.” The burning of a book, ANY book, is a group of people reimbursing themselves for the miseries of a needless, heedless, misdirected, disappointed, fear.