Main Street by Roger Allen, publisher — September 16, 2010

Burning Question 

Anybody want to burn a book? Pick just the right one, get some publicity, and you may hear from the President himself.

Book-burning is such old stuff. It’s been going on since at least the days of the ancient Greeks. The Chinese were at it as early as 213 B.C. The Big Three (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have been bonfiring each other’s scrolls and books for a couple of thousand years. Starting in the thirteenth century, the Spanish Inquisition lit up a lot of them.

Setters of book fires didn’t always have religious motives. In the thirteenth century, a Roman emperor set fire to Egyptian books on alchemy. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Germany’s Hitler burned books deemed “degenerate” (translate: anti-Nazi). Those included, of course, many written by and about Jews. The Nazis, however, also put the heat on books by Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells, and Helen Keller.

People of a certain age may remember that comic books were once suspected of corrupting America’s youth. In 1948, priests, teachers and parents handed matches to the kids, who set light to several hundred comic books in both Spencer, West Virginia, and

Binghamton, New York. Word got around, and

other cities had their own comic book-burnings.

Poor Orphan Annie! Poor Superman!

Book-burning’s history of stupidity notwithstanding, if the latest plan had come off it certainly would have annoyed Muslims. Most Muslims aren’t terrorists. If we’re smart, we’ll concentrate on the bad guys and not light fires that would just cause more trouble.

A question of right and wrong 

It was 1965. An elderly Italian went to his parish priest and asked if he would hear his confession.

“Of course, my son,” said the priest.

“Well, Father, in the 1940s, near the beginning of World War Two, a beautiful woman knocked on my door and pleaded for me to hide her from the Germans. I hid her in my attic, and they never found her.”

“That’s a wonderful thing, my son, and nothing you need to confess,” said the priest.

“Oh, it’s worse, Father. I was weak and told her she had to be my girlfriend,” continued the old man.

“It was a very difficult time,” said the priest, “and you took a large risk. You would have suffered terribly at their hands if the Germans had found you hiding her. I know that God, in his wisdom and mercy, will balance the good and the evil and judge you kindly.”

“Thank you, Father,” said the old man. “That’s a load off my mind. May I ask another question?”

“Of course, my son,” said the priest.

The old man asked, “Do I need to tell her that the war is over?”

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