Books are not sacred

Well, Terry Jones backed off on the Koran burning. So what? Why should any rational person care if someone burns a Koran, or a Bible, the Sears catalogue or a Donald Duck comic book? That would depend on the nature of the burning.

Book burnings by governments or others with the intent to deprive society of their content would be a direct attack on the right of free expression and the open exchange of ideas. Two important elements
of an enlightened democracy.

On the other hand, private individuals burning books to make a point, so what? Doing that is also part of one's right of free expression. Anyone who gets upset at such an act needs to get a grip. Books are just that, a bunch of printed material. The information may be entertaining, it may be informative, instructive, even valuable, but sacred? Special? What a crock!

Terry Jones made a splash with his threats because he doesn't like Islam. Stupid might be a good way to describe the Reverend Jones' exercise of his right. It also might be a good way to describe the ridiculous reaction to his threat. A rational person should care less what book or books Terry Jones decides to burn.

Reading the comments with a number of the articles posted online dealing with the book burning issue, with the "ground zero mosque" and other related issues, one comes to the conclusion that there are a lot of ignorant and/or irrational people out there.

The argument is made frequently that the Internet is a vehicle for spreading democracy and expanding the range of information available to us. This is probably true. But, it seems also to have become a vehicle for spreading fear and prejudice, and reinforcing ignorance in a segment of the population.

Fear and ignorance of course are nothing new. Societies have been manipulating them from the beginning of history to control their members and to provide advantage to one group or another.

Organized religion and cultures have often used concepts of the sacred and holy, and things like honour, face, machismo, nationalism, ethnic identities and other facile things that are rationally of little importance, to commit all kinds of idiotic and destructive acts. The book burning affair and the mosque kafuffle are but two examples. More examples are the protests against mosques in Tennessee and California, incidents in the Muslim countries such as church burnings and desecrations, and other acts of idiocy rooted in ignorance and fear like the reaction to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Not to be forgotten, too, are all the times so-called "Christian" fruitcakes protested movies and other expressions that they found offensive.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and one feature of a modern, progressive society is tolerance. As long as one's exercise of their beliefs does not restrict the rights of others tolerance should be the rule. Everyone has the right to be blasphemous. However, there is no right to not be offended.

Terry Jones burning a Koran, a rabbi lighting fire to the New Testament, or a mullah dropping a Bible down the outhouse hole should have no more importance than if they destroyed some unsolicited junk mail. These are silly acts that physically hurt no one and deserve little or no attention at all.

Society is not well served by people running around with their hair on fire over this or that trivial matter. Such frivolous things are nothing worth fighting over, killing over, or dying over. They are also not worth what can be lost when they are allowed to overshadow and divert attention away from
more substantive matters.

Life is sacred, but books and beliefs are not. For rational people in such matters tolerance is the civilized approach.

Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada's West Coast.

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