The destruction of culture and history is running rampant in America. We see enemies of freedom taking it upon themselves to burn books or tear down statues. We have Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists demanding the removal of statues, the renaming of streets, and, in fact, the very erasure of history.
The idea that you can destroy a book and still be on the correct side of history shows the activists for what they really are: ignorant of history. Studying the past brings understanding. It is not less history that we need, but more.
In the U.K. and U.S., statues are being torn down and the phrase “Decolonize Your Bookshelf” has become popular. Certain books are not being republished, and libraries are choosing not to stock them. Private citizens are being attacked for the books they have on their shelves. What is to become of these poor books that are no longer socially acceptable? They will end up on the fire.
The German poet Heinrich Heine perhaps put it best when he wrote:
“That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well.”
Not surprisingly, the Nazis tried to erase him from history.
You Can’t Kill a Concept
This brings us to the very truth of the matter. Books are a reflection of a writer. Destroying a book is never enough to silence an idea. They are the messenger, not the message. So, what comes next? What is the next step when the ideas in books are spoken aloud?
We don’t need to guess to answer this question. We saw the answer in the last century, in Germany, in Warsaw, in Communist Russia. It’s only one step away. If these closet fascists took the time to learn history, maybe they would not be so eager to begin the short journey down this dark path.
On April 8, 1933, a campaign began in Germany to destroy all the books that were deemed bad. It was called the “Action against the Un-German Spirit,” and was a cooperation between the German Student Union and its press and propaganda office. The effort was supposed to be a “purification” of the language, and the expulsion of all things considered deviant. Is this so different from today?
This is an unwinnable war for the destroyers of history because you can’t use an eraser on history. The past must be accepted, learned from, and the people of today made stronger by those lessons.