Book burning belongs in the past

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Missouri State Sen. Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles County) advocates burning books.

Rory Brouillard | Staff Writer

Book burning has always been seen as a political statement to censor the content being received by the public. The censorship is an act of control over what information one is taking in and educating themselves with. The hope of this censorship is to keep people naïve and push one agenda, usually right leaning.

Book burning can be traced back to 213 B.C. during the Qin Dynasty in China. It was used to maintain power of the throne by limiting the education distributed to the public.

Since then, book burning has been seen in fascist governments such as the Soviet Union during communist rule and German territory during the Holocaust.

And still, all these years later, Missouri State Sen. Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles County) has spoken on the topic of burning banned books.

On Sept. 15, a picture was posted online of the senator torching cardboard boxes. ABC News reporter, Summer Ballentine brought up the debate over whether this is a symbol for book burning or not.

Despite this having nothing to do directly to burning books, it led to Eigel saying he would burn books that he saw as supporting liberal ideas. These ideas include LGBTQ+ rights, critical race theory or any opinions on race, immigration and women’s rights.

Burning books doesn’t just restrict them, like the process of banning books, but completely disrespects the topic and community that the authors write about.

Books are the door to knowledge and ideas. Knowledge gives the right to opinion and freedom of thought. It is easier to control people if they only see one side of conflict and have no room for independent thought.

Republicans across the U.S. are backing conservative efforts to purge schools and libraries of materials with LGBTQ+ themes or books with LGBTQ+ characters. The issue resonates with Republicans in Missouri.

An AP VoteCast survey of Missouri voters in the 2022 midterm elections showed that more than 75% of those voting for GOP candidates thought the K-8 schools in their community were teaching too much about gender identity or sexual orientation.

Much of the Republican party believes that books that support the LGBTQ+ community are brainwashing children. In reality, the books are giving proper representation to all groups and allowing children to educate themselves outside of what they learn at home.

An example would be helpful here. Is there a book about the LGBTQ+ community that is proof of good representation?

For example: “The Color Purple” is a 1983 novel by Alice Walker which continues to be on required reading lists at high schools and universities outside local government book bans. Walker has received both a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction for the novel depicting interconnecting struggles with race, family and sexuality.

Eigel claims he wants to protect children from pornographic material, which he believes refers to LGBTQ+ books. In response to the social media video, Ballentine found that Eigel had said, “Let’s be clear, you bring those woke pornographic books to Missouri schools to try to brainwash our kids, and I’ll burn those too — on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion.”

Giving children books that describe multiple backgrounds and ideas isn’t brainwashing. Limiting and censoring what resources children have access to and pushing one agenda is brainwashing.

Believe it or not, allowing people to think for themselves isn’t a bad thing.

The New York Times asked high school students to weigh in with their thoughts on banned books. One student said to the news outlet, “By banning these books we are withholding truth and education.”

Education is a right and not something to be restricted and disregarded.

Another student said that reading banned books “broadened my awareness of racial injustice, put me into someone else’s shoes, and made me want to change the world in whatever way I could.”

Reading books that lift up voices often pushed down and ignored opens the younger generation’s eyes to injustice in the world and allows them to become empathetic individuals who want a better future.

If reading is so important and gives so much to society, why ban books? It’s simple: The white, straight majority on the conservative side of politics want to maintain control over the country. They need to ban ideas to keep their power. Short of banning students from educating altogether, banning books and pushing out misinformation and discrimination is the next best thing for them to keep power.

Banning books takes away independent thought and freedom of speech expressed through literature. Burning books takes it a step further by showing complete disrespect for minority groups.

Having a politician openly state wanting to burn these books to avoid brainwashing makes me terrified for the future, especially as a future English teacher.

Knowledge is a right that everyone deserves and it is slowly being burned away before our eyes.