Last week or so, a white supremacist group planned to hold a book burning down in Orange County. There was an uproar, so they cancelled, citing fears over lefty violence. Aww, poor nazis, did someone burn a Statue of Liberty on your front lawn? Anyway, last time I checked, it was the KKK that not only threatened violence, but performed it – around 4000 lynchings from the 1870s to 1950 – and it was the Nazis who murdered 6 million Jews, amongst others – so “credible threats of violence from the left” is just rich.
I thought we’d take a look at the books they planned on burning, so-called “degenerate literature”. As with all banned book lists, we’re bound to find some good stuff; in this case, the list is so vague, in a sense, nearly every book is on it.
“Time for the American people to purge their homes, State, and country of degenerate literature. This includes literature of Marxism, Communism, Bolshevism, literature with liberal, democratic tendencies / attitudes, and writings supporting the decline of Western Culture. Books on sexuality and sexual education which serves to indoctrinate the life of degeneracy, such as Cosmo and Teen Vogue should be brought to the fire as well. We will also burn the Koran, publications such as Karl Marx, and more. We must create a future without degeneracy for our children.” (as reported in the OC Weekly)
“… literature with liberal, democratic tendencies/attitudes”. (That phrase is cribbed from an actual Nazi list from the 30s. See below.) So, that’s most of the Western canon — and they seem to want to “protect” Western culture. These guys. Geeez. It’s hard to imagine what they would spend their future doing, if they ever succeeded in their awful plans. Sit around the campfire reciting their ideologies? Gawd, can you imagine the boredom?
“Books on sexuality and sexual education” – There go such degenerates as Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Song of Solomon – both the Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison’s novel and King Solomon’s erotic poetry in the Bible. Also throw out the rest of the Bible and most of the rest of the Western canon. Can’t have any stories or books with sexuality in them – because, ok, there is a difference between Marquis de Sade and Old Yeller, but most books worth reading fall somewhere in between. Is this one of those I-know-it-when-I-see-it things?
And then they actually mention a few specifics:
Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto and/or Das Kapital – Hey, maybe in the 20th century we saw this particular economic system fail spectacularly – and no doubt there was much suffering in the Eastern Bloc and in China – but you really gotta burn the source material? Isn’t that a tad hysterical? It’s not like Karl Marx is your ex, and you’re trying to get over a tough breakup, right? Calm down. I don’t know much about economics, but I’m thinking the failures of attempts at communism stemmed from the same failures of other -isms: greed, lust for power, selfishness – the same human illnesses that actually infect our own system. Anyway, burning Das Kapital like it’s the Necronomicon is pretty dumb.
The Qur’an – These folks probably read somewhere that in such-and-such a place in The Qur’an it says “blah blah blah” and in another place it says “yadda yadda” – and see? that’s proof that Islam is bad, and they wanna kill us all! Look. You take an ancient book – the Bible for instance – and you can twist it into all kinds of crazy shapes. It ain’t hard to do, because these books are not cookie recipes or blog posts — these are really complex literatures, that come out of specific cultural contexts and time periods. If you really want to know what the Bible or The Qur’an or any other scriptures say, you’re gonna have to invest a lot of time and effort into understanding them. Read, study, use commentaries, and so on. No amount of cherry-picking verses is gonna give you an accurate picture of what that book (or collection of books) is really all about. Period. Burning someone else’s holy book is a combo platter of arrogance and ignorance.
Cosmo and Teen Vogue. Yes, these specific publications are named. [face palm] Good thing these guys are here to save us.
Our local nazis didn’t give us much to work with, as far as specificity, so let’s go right to the source. Here is part of an actual nazi document from the 30s I found on the University of Arizona website. (Look at the other documents – you’ll find a few verbatim phrases from the OC list.)
“It is clear that the cleansing action and future oversight must definitely be placed in the hands of experienced, politically dependable, expert public librarians.”
POLITICALLY DEPENDABLE. Hm. Has a familiar ring to it.
“According to the principles governing the compilation of this list, the following publications must be removed from public and commercial lending libraries:
a) All writings that ridicule and belittle the state and its institutions, or that attack or question its moral foundation”
Like, The Declaration of Independence? This is what free speech is about – not the freedom to threaten genocide, but the freedom to challenge authority. I bet these guys were all about questioning the state when they weren’t the state. In other words, this is not a matter of principle – it’s about holding power.
“b) All writings that attack or attempt to dissolve the order of the community of the Volk and its moral foundation, specifically [SPECIFICALLY] those against the race and biological requirements of a healthy Volk (marriage, family, etc.).”
So, ripping Jewish families out of their neighborhoods and then killing them wouldn’t dissolve the order of the community or its moral foundation? AH – I see – you can do it, you just can’t have books about it – is that it? What’s that about? No witnesses, no memory? Guess again; we remember. And for that “specifically”, I don’t think these guys would be fans of Dr. King’s writings. Obviously, all writers of color, from James Baldwin to Roxane Gay, would be out. No Ta Nehisi Coates doing Black Panther and no Black Panther. (Short side trip into music: in the world Nazis would make, there would be no Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Rock or Hip Hop. Can you imagine an America where the only popular music is Country? And it would be a hobbled version, robbed of its gospel/blues/rock influences. Hey! New dystopian sub-genre!)
“c) All writings that ridicule, belittle or besmirch the Christian religion and its institution, faith in God, or other things that are holy to the healthy sentiments of the Volk.”
You mean like nazi writings? This is a first draft, isn’t it?
“d) The writings of the so-called ‘Asphalt’ literature whose characteristics are superficial witticism [WITTICISM] and a quick intellectualism [INTELLECTUALISM]. These writings may be presented with virtuoso facility, but in its relativity lacks any adherence to the values [VALUES] that provide the basis for the common national, moral and religious life. [note lack of Oxford comma – these assholes] This literature makes no attempt to strive for these values and goals; it fancies itself in its free-floating intellectualism and thus leads to the total negation of all values and commitments (Literature of intellectual Nihilism)”.
Ha ha ha – I didn’t know they had late night talk show hosts and SNL in the 30s, but there you go: “Don’t make fun of us!!” Note the knock on “intellectualism”; to dismiss the opposition as “quick” and “free-floating” is to say “we are unable to respond to it”. Yeah, dude – that should tell you something. In book terms, I guess this would mean no satire? Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut are out, for starters.
This is how you know we will win in the end. These people are so closed-off and humorless and – God help them – devoid of LIFE. Though we must ever and always fight to stop them, we have to be willing to restore the ones that manage to break out of that hateful void. Not compromise with them, but bring them a ladder if they want to escape the pit.
To nazis and other book-burners: Come out of the darkness, we have all the good books – literally all of them. You’ve cut yourself off from the collected art, beauty, stories and wisdom of aeons of human experience… for what?