Sociology

The Social Implications of Book Burning



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With the news world buzzing about Florida pastor Terry Jones' plan to burn copies of the Koran on September 11th, not since Nazi Germany has the act of book burning garnered so much worldwide attention.  Are there social implications to the act of merely setting afire what is, in essence, nothing more than sheets of ink-covered paper?  Certainly.  Otherwise, Pastor Jones' actions would not have been deemed newsworthy.  Unfortunately, even though the social implications of book burning are numerous, none of them are good. 

The fact of the matter is that book burning has never achieved anything beneficial to society.  The act of burning a book, especially one that is regarded as sacred by millions of people, can only result in social and political repercussions of the negative variety.  Take the case of Pastor Jones, who no doubt feels that he is doing something that is righteous.  It is unfathomable to believe that the act of burning the Koran can bring about anything positive or good in a world that has been plagued by religious conflicts since time immemorial.  Nonetheless, despite harsh criticism by the likes of Hillary Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus, Pastor Jones seems to have no plans to abandon his planned book burning.  So what does Pastor Jones truly hope to accomplish?

Perhaps only he knows the answer.  Perhaps he feels the Christian world is long overdue for a modern-day Holy Crusade.  Whatever he hopes to accomplish by burning the Islamic holy book is not nearly as important as what will surely happen.  These are the social implications, the ABCs, of burning books in today's society:

Alienating a certain population.  Burning any book, whether a work of fiction or a religious text, will always result in the alienation of a certain type of people.  Burning pornographic material will alienate a certain sex-crazed portion of the population, but it won't make pornography go away.  Likewise, burning a holy book like the Bible or the Koran will not make our problems with world religions go away, they will only alienate us from each other, thereby deepening the rift that already exists.

Breeding hatred and intolerance.  Burning a book is a symbolic act, intended to say "We do not have tolerance for your way of thinking".  When tolerance for certain people does not exist, those who perpetrate the act of book burning are willfully shutting themselves out from a differing point of view.  Those who isolate themselves from differing points of view are only exemplifying their own ignorance.

Casualties.  The majority of violent acts in the world are provoked by non-violent actions.  Book burning is one such action that, throughout history, has led to violent retaliation.  Those who burn books are serving as instigators.

Danger.  Book burners not only willfully put themselves in danger, they also endanger the lives of innocent people.  Pastor Jones has acknowledged that he has received death threats, but what of the millions of Americans who travel, study, or work abroad in Muslim countries?  Surely Pastor Jones knows that he is endangering the lives of innocents, but this type of disregard for human life is a hallmark the book burner's mentality.

There is no need to progress further into the alphabet; for I'm sure that most of us can come up with dozens of other social and political implications of book burning, and all of them would undoubtedly be negative, serving only to willfully propagate harm. 


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