Two observations today interrupted my already wandering trains of thought. (Can trains wander, I wonder?)
A school boy walked down a local sidewalk holding a book in front of him. It was a school text, and he was totally absorbed in reading it.
Later an oversized, overweight guy wearing a Blackwater t-shirt climbed into his Hummer and drove off in a cloud of burnt premium.
I really liked the first image: Young boy reads book. I really hated the second one: Guy in military-style vehicle displays logo of corrupt mercenary organization.
I jumped to moral conclusions without a conscious thought, and you might have done the same. Most of us mortals live in a world pre-colored for us by experience and assumptions.
These depressing thoughts bring me to the issues of book banning and book burning, both of which were clearly in evidence this week. Preacher Jones in Gainesville, Florida, called off his planned incineration of copies of the Quran.
And as of this writing, Defense Department officials were in negotiations to purchase and destroy all 10,000 copies of the first printing of “Operation Dark Heart,” written by Anthony Shaffer, former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. The D of D wants to ban the book, basically burn it, because, according to an internal memo, publication “could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security.”
Too bad about that, military guys. “Operation Dark Heart” already has been distributed to reviewers and finished copies have been purchased by reporters and others. The book will become famous now that it’s been targeted.
Just the very thought of government suppression inevitably will make any available copies hideously expensive on EBay and similar sites. People will seek out this book who otherwise would have ignored it.
Most attempts at destruction of the printed word end up like that. Preacher Jones said he planned to burn a holy book, and even that was enough to create worldwide anguish and anger.
In light of this it is hard to credit a photograph on the news at the moment. It’s a picture of Preacher Jones shaking hands with imam Muhammad Musri, who is president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida in Orlando. Clearly reconciliation, even forgiveness, can be achieved at the very moment of confrontation. If these two embraced and forgave, anyone can.
According to history books we Westerners crusaded all over the early Muslims, then fought them to a standstill at the gates of Vienna while inventing the croissant-shaped pastry which, when served with butter and jam, is one of the best results of a war ever.
Later we invented America and pledged ourselves to freedom of speech and religion. A US mosque is constitutional in any location, even New York city.
It’s easier to read books than burn them, and a lot healthier for everyone.
“Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and The Path to Victory” by Anthony Shaffer. Thomas Dunne Books hard cover $25.99. ISBN 978-0312612177.
Scott Shane of the NY Times: Military Seeks to Buy 10,000 Copies of Book of Secrets
published September 9, 2010.