Ray Bradbury, in his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, portrays a world in which a totalitarian government creates a fire department whose job it is to crush antithetical ideas to the state. The firemen’s task is to locate and destroy books by hosing them down with kerosene and putting a match to them.
Bradbury was well-aware of the reality of book-burning having seen the cold calculating nature of Nazi Germany’s war on ideas. When Republican Senator Joe McCarthy gained a following in the 50s by claiming his opponents were socialists and communists, when his arguments became couched in lies and slander, when became the exception, Bradbury stepped forward to suggest that he smelled the kerosene in McCarthy’s words and truth actions.
Both Bradbury and McCarthy have departed this world, but the memory of each man lives on. Today’s “book burners” (figuratively speaking) are alive and well in state governments in Florida and Texas to name two of the most notables.
Unfortunately, the rot runs deeper. In 26 states (including Pennsylvania), school districts, frequently with the backing of state legislators, have either banned or investigated as preliminary to ban some 1100 books.
Among the prohibited titles are To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984and The Grapes of Wrath. These were some of the classic reads of my youth.
Is that a wisp of kerosene I smell?
Joseph R. Fischer, Northumberland, Pa.