A person does not have to be religious in order to appreciate truths contained in the Bible, especially those which might be seen as universal in nature. One can argue whether the account of Adam, Eve, the forbidden tree of “the knowledge of good and evil,” and the serpent, for example, was historical or an anecdotal narrative. Nevertheless, it conveys a lesson about humanity, which was, perhaps unintended, about how forbidding access to something, even for one’s own good, is likely to invite more curiosity than one originally intended.
This being the case, those who proscribe and eschew certain kinds of behaviours might only serve, unwittingly, as agents which encourage their promulgation. This is likely to be so with the push by some state governments to have the teaching of Critical Race Theory, or anything from history or from Social Sciences research which children might find disturbing, banned. Furthermore, it has also been recommended that books dealing with race and racism which might cause children to feel bad about their race be pulled from the shelves of school libraries. Tell people not to do “so and so” and the order will, likely, not be obeyed. Forced from open public discourse into the shadows, word will, likely, still get around as people will always talk.
This writer’s curiosity has often been piqued by topics deemed as outlandish, outrageous and off-limits when they were raised and discussed in the public square. His library underscores this reality. This was as true from his hearing of the excoriation of the Women’s Liberation Movement, to the “evils” of the politics of state-funded health insurance, and now, to the latest game in town which is the vilification of Critical Race Theory. But, he recognizes that this is all political theatre and that the powers that be know and do as they please because most Americans do not and will not read.
Despite the reality that the verification of information is the last thing on the minds of those who are willing pawns of foolishness, there are those who have a hunger for knowledge that will circumvent, elude and obliterate obstacles which rival their appetite for food. No banning or burning of books, no threat of torture or of death has succeeded in stamping out the existence of ideas.
It has been stated, for example, that Christianity has more heresies than any other religion despite citadels of learning and tried and true principles of biblical exegesis established as hedges around orthodox doctrines.
The suppression of information has taken different forms, but the burning of books — as seen throughout the long corridors of history — is, perhaps, the most popular form. Though it intimidated and discouraged ideas that some found reprehensible and threatening, it nearly always failed to obliterate the ideas of visionaries, heretics and dissidents. Though the scrolls of the prophet Jeremiah were burnt by King Jehoiakim, for example, his prophecies are still read today.
In 168 BC the Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV ordered Jewish ‘Books of the Law’ found in Jerusalem to be ‘rent in pieces’ and burned — a part of a series of persecutions which precipitated the Maccabean revolt. And yet, those writings have survived and do thrive.
In 25 AD Senator Aulus Cremutius Cordus was forced to commit suicide and his ‘History’ was burnt under the order of the Roman senate. A copy of the book was saved by his daughter and was published again. Christians in Ephesus, as recorded in The Book of Acts, burnt their scrolls dealing with sorcery and yet this black art continues to be practised. The Roman Catholic Church did so to the writings of Martin Luther and he did so to their writings in AD 409, yet the ideas of both persist today. The emperors Theodosius II and Honorius ordered that astrologers burn their books on pain of expulsion, and Quaker books were burnt in the city of Boston by authorities and yet such ideas of men still live.
What is destroyed is often reconstructed in ways closely resembling the original autograph. Sometimes gaps are filled in with rough and inaccurate hearsay, creating metaphysical monsters which are far more formidable, invasive, intractable and destructive than when they were first published — untainted — and which were rightly or wrongly feared. Again, slaves who were prohibited from learning to read and write developed concealed classrooms which were literally underground and were attended at night when their tasks for the day were done. While he was a slave Fredrick Douglass bartered food with white boys, lads whom he had befriended, for lessons. Despite prohibitive laws, word still gets around.
And so this game that is being currently played by governors across the United States has been played before, but without success. The ruse that they created surrounding the teaching of Critical Race Theory and about an alleged revisionist American history which reveals the shocking, depraved and inhumane things that white America did to black America might empty the shelves of school libraries, might intimidate teachers, and win for them an election here and there, but 10 more leaks will spring up in their boats for every ounce of truth that spews forth and that they try to plug. Besides, if anyone can successfully teach law courses to middle and high school children then they ought to be given a raise in salary, if not for the subject being taught but for their genius.
It was Kevin Swanson who said that, “The greatest wars ever fought in history are not those fought by sword or artillery. The greatest battles are engaged in the realm of ideas.” The politicians have developed the right strategies for manipulating the populace. In fact, that is what politicians do and what they have managed to become quite good at. But such legal manoeuvers often provide hints at the power of the ideas that they are trying to squash, and about the length, depth and breadth of their fears, and also the desperate natures of their agendas.
Many are intellectually asleep and are, therefore, the unsuspecting targets of the nefarious machinations of ambitious political and religious leaders. The groundwork that they have laid do not amount to battles, but to uncontested acts of genocide of heart and of mind. Some leaders say to those who have blindly and willingly made themselves pawns in their selfish schemes, in artful double speak and in the words of one whose identity has been obscured from the lights of the broad stage of history, “I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.”