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article imageSome History on Book Burning

By KJ Mullins     May 15, 2007 in Lifestyle
"Those that live by the pen shall die by the sword"
Some things just irk me. The number one is the banning of books.
To take away knowledge in any form is simply intolerable to me. It doesn't matter what the content of the words are, just a "higher" power saying "nope, that's off limits" bothers me.
Granted I would prefer my kids didn't read about sixty nine ways to satisfy their partners but in time they should. In a free world words have value. And that value is on every word.
I liken book banning to the Salem Witch hunts. If there's a problem it can't be the fault of the person doing wrong, no siree bob, it's because of television, books, video games, they masturbated too often, they didn't jerk off enough, their parents were boobs, their parents were on welfare, their parents worked too much, the school didn't educate properly, those damn atheists were next door, those damn Bible thumpers were next door, etc. I could go on but I do have a life.
“Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books …”
— U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982)
It's not like banning books is a new thing. The Chinese and the Greeks did it way back in the B.C. years. And then it become common place with the upswing of Christianity. Popes started saying what books you couldn't read back in 1559 with Pope Paul IV. They have updated their list 20 times throughout the centuries. In 1563 Charles IX of France decided to go one better . He didn't allow anything to be printed unless he gave it a thumbs up.
Back before the printing press banning a book was easy. You burnt it. Problem solved. Just think of all the words that were written that we've never had a chance to wonder at.
In 1650, a religious pamphlet by William Pynchon was confiscated by Puritan authorities in Massachusetts, condemned by the General Court and burned by the public executioner in the Boston marketplace. The incident is considered to be the first book-burning in America.
When newspapers started flying off the presses in the 18th century governments decided it would be in their best interest to be strict on what could be printed. In modern times, restrictions on press freedom continue in many African and Asian countries, in eastern Europe, and in Latin America. And we see it to a degree in western countries.
Now banning books some to be in vague with certain groups. If a book seems vulgar to a group it's free reign. Books from Harry Potter to Huckleberry Finn have been said to be "wrong" for the public.
Ready for a "fun" time line of great events in the world of book banning? thought you would be.
259–210 B.C.-Good old Shih Huang Ti, emperor of China, had a nice little BBQ. 460 Confucian scholars got to be the fuel for the fire.
A.D. 8- Ovid wrote about love and got the heave ho from Rome. His book Ars Amatoria caused him to be exiled in Greece until he died. they burned all of his books in Florence.
(oh and a nifty bit of more current news......his book was banned by U.S. Customs in 1928.....he must have had some wicked words)
35- Roman emperor Caligula decided that the ideas of Greek freedom of Homer's The Odyssey were not a good idea.
640- There was a big bonfire in Egypt. Omar burned all the volumes at the library in Alexandria . “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the Book of God they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.” The good news here, the books provided heat for the city's baths for six months.
1497–98- The season of Florentine bonfires was given to us by Savonarola. He invited artists and authors to join in by contributing their works to the fire. Ironically, in May of 1498 another great bonfire was lit—this time under Savonarola who hung from a cross. With him were burned all his writings, sermons, essays, and pamphlets.
1525- Latin rules! William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament was printed 6,000 times and smuggled into England to light up the night. The church said the Bible had to be in Latin.
1597- Richard II that little play from Shakespeare had a scene that ticked off the Queen. Key word, had a scene. It was removed.
1614- The History of the World by Sir Walter Raleigh was deemed to saucy. Way to go Walt!
1624-The Pope ordered the burning of Martin Luther’s German translation. Gee whiz don't those kids ever learn?
1616–42- Galileo had views not becoming the church about the solar system and his support of the discoveries of Copernicus. He got jailed at 70.
1720-Robinson Crusoe was banned by the Church.
1843- English plays started being censored by the Lord Chamberlain. That ended a few years later, 1968.
1859- The year of Darwinism! Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was published. Anyone up for movie time? Inherit the Wind is on somewhere I bet.
1864–1959-The Vatican strikes again. This time Les Miserables gets the no no ruling.
1881-Walt Whitman gets the last laugh. When Boston’s district attorney threatened to ban Leaves of Grass the public went wild for it. the profits paid for Whitman's house.
1885-Huckleberry Finn started getting booed. First by the library of Concord, Massachusetts. By 1907 it's said the novel by Mark Twain had been banned at least once a year by some place in America.
1929–62- Papa Hemingway's books have been banned worldwide. Heck the Nazi's hated him so much they did that old bonfire thing with his works.
1931- Alice in Wonderland is banned in China. Why you ask? Because animals shouldn't have human voice.
1937- Quebec came up with the Padlock Act. The statute empowered the attorney general to close, for up to one year, any building that was used to disseminate “communism or bolshevism.” (These two terms were undefined.) In addition, the act empowered the attorney general to confiscate and destroy any publication propagating communism or bolshevism. Anyone caught publishing, printing, or distributing such literature faced imprisonment for up to one year without appeal. In 1957, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Padlock Act in a case called Switzman vs. Elbling.
1954- That evil Mickey Mouse was banned from East Berlin. You know he's an “anti-Red rebel.”
1980s- Beatrix Potter's bunnies were banned in England. The novels The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny only showed middle class bunnies. How very non PC!
1983- Alabama's textbook committee ruled that the diary of Anne Frank was too much of a downer for kids to deal with. Oops, I guess impending death is too big a subject for kids.
1987- If you close your eyes it doesn't exist. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was removed by the Wake County, North Carolina reading lists. The reason? She described being raped at seven.
2001- The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act allows for the collection of information of every book an
American checks out of a library. Hi Big Brother.
additional resources:
http://www.freedomtoread.ca/links_and_resources/bannings_and_burnings.asp
http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/speech/libraries/topic.aspx?topic=banned_books
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