I never liked remembering dates and anniversaries. However, there are those who deserve to be remembered in the collective memory, because their meaning touches all of us, no matter how many years pass, and it is so strong that we cannot afford to forget them.
May 10th is one such date, but it doesn’t matter to celebrate it on that particular day, because it is important to record what happened in Berlin and twenty-one other German university cities in 1933 so that you can remember it every day. day of the year and never let it happen again.
After a speech by Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s government propaganda minister, one of those fiery and infamous speeches for which he went down in history, thousands of students and teachers – according to the US Holocaust Museum, there were 40,000 people – raided libraries, bookstores, departments and school and university institutes to “cleanse” the books stored there, tear them off the shelves, take them to Bebelplatz and other squares and publicly burn them, since they were considered harmful to the population. More than 25,000 books were burned that day for being “un-German” and inciting “decay and moral decay”. The list is very long, but German readers since that day have missed, for example, such authors as Brecht, Benjamin, Einstein, Freud, Kafka, Luxembourg, Mann, Marx, von Sutner and Zweig, some for Jews, others for pacifists. , still others for the communists, and still others simply because they were not loved by the regime, which found them dangerous – Joyce, Hemingway, Conrad, Wells, Gide – certainly “inappropriate”, as they now say.
Already a hundred years ago, Heinrich Heine (one of the authors whose books burned during the purge of 1933) uttered his prophetic words: “Wherever books are burned, sooner or later people will be burned.” And so it happened: they started with books, and ended up with the most terrifying horror of the 20th century.
After the war, the terrible Second World War, which, in addition to books, ended the lives of millions of people, with their families, their property, their ideals and their dignity, everyone knew that we could never allow anything like this again. happen. Never again.
Barely a century has passed since that book burning, which was a prelude to the horrors to come later, and we find that in the United States of America, “the land of the free,” as their national anthem proudly proclaims, is the one that all public school students sing with their hands over their hearts at the start of class, the Tennessee government enacted an ordinance requiring all public school librarians to submit for approval a list of books they have on their shelves, and therefore students could freely refer to or read them. Books deemed “unacceptable” will be removed from both libraries and index cards.
“Unacceptable” is a decidedly ambiguous and highly subjective term that, in the eyes of the conservative groups that proposed and supported the decree, refers to all books dealing with topics such as racism, gender, political identity and sexuality, according to the annual censorship report. American Librarians Association ALA (American Library Association).
But if this is serious in itself, much more serious is what became known – via Twitter and what was collected by the Washington Post – in the course of the controversy between two Tennessee senators, Republican Jerry Sexton and Democrat Ray Clemmons. . When the latter asked a Republican colleague what he planned to do with books removed from libraries under this “inappropriate reading” criterion, Sexton replied, “I have no idea, but I would burn them.”
And with that, we’re back to where we said eighty years ago that we won’t let it happen again: censorship and book burning because some people who probably haven’t even read them think they’re “inappropriate.” Fathers and mothers of students can also ask librarians to remove books that seem unsuitable for their offspring under the new law, and librarians must annually submit lists—both new acquisitions and old stock—to be approved. Or no.
If we add to this the already existing censorship of graphic works – from posters to reproductions of great classical paintings, such as Goya’s Maja, which was removed by court order back in 1991 from the music room of Pennsylvania State University in connection with the protest of a student who considered it necessary to see image of a naked woman during a lesson or concert with “sexual harassment” – censorship of children’s stories, such as “Little Red Riding Hood” in Culver City, California, and later in Seattle, because a girl, clearly underage, in a basket has a bottle of wine, which she’s on her way to her grandma’s (alcohol, underage!), and all the hurdles that publications and comedy shows and monologues face about “political correctness” we can get a clearer picture of where things are heading in a country that boasts by being the freest country in the world, a champion of freedom of expression.
We are talking about a country where a person cannot drink beer or a glass of wine until the age of 21 in some states (up to 18 in others), or even enter a meal, even if he drinks water, in a place where alcohol, but you can buy military weapons. And now it turns out that books are harmful. It is a country with an illiteracy rate of 8.3% – one of the highest rates in the first world countries – 43 million functionally illiterate who admit in polls that they find it difficult to read and understand what they read and express their thoughts in writing. Republican politicians, however, are concerned that they read Mark Twain, find out that there were still slaves in their country a hundred and fifty years ago, and read the word “black” with all the letters – horror! The height is wrong! As if being a slave of any color wasn’t terrible enough. As is often the case, what is bad, what should be abolished, is words, instead of changing reality.
They are also not interested in teens learning that in addition to the Jewish genocide they learn in school, their own ancestors exterminated the Indian peoples they now elegantly call “Native Americans” and are getting smaller and smaller. They also don’t want young people to realize that identity is a social construct and that it is not necessary to have a religious affiliation to be a decent person.
The problem, one of many problems, is that this is not just happening in the United States. Everywhere, including in our country, there are more and more parties and even groups and associations that want to censor, ban, burn; who proudly say they don’t believe in science, who don’t believe in evidence of climate change, who even doubt that our planet is a sphere.
If we are not careful, we will soon see burning books in the square. For our own good, of course. These things are always done to save us. Larra has already said that “God save us from falling into the hands of heroes.” About heroes, about saviors, about people who forbid us to read for our own good, so that we can become like them and feel like the owners of the truth, which should be pleasant if you seriously believe in it. I have always preferred to choose what I read, to form my own opinion, to disagree if necessary. What we can do? I prefer doubt.
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