One of the most moving moments in my life occurred last year when visiting Berlin for a coaching colloquium. During a walking tour of the city, we stood on the spot where thousands of books by Jewish authors and other “un-German thinkers” were burned by the Nazis. In the middle of the now-empty square is a plaque embedded in the bricks with the following quote:
German poet Heinrich Heine wrote these words in 1821 referring to the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, during the Spanish Inquisition where thousands of people were slaughtered. Heine’s books were later burned by the Nazis because he was a Jew.
When I heard about the book burning planned next Saturday in the small church in Florida, I had to write something. I even imagined myself flying there and standing on the spot they intend to do the burning.
I intellectually understand the right to spout off words of hate in the name of free speech. I emotionally cannot fathom burning things that are dear to people to prove a point.
I travel extensively outside of our country. Our image has been tarnished for years. We are not seen as the greatest country anymore. Besides hurting our reputation, this image hurts our pocket books. We cannot afford being arrogant anymore.
When I listen to the news, I rarely hear the voice of good sense come forward. In my own state, Arizona, no one seems to be standing up to the hate-mongering going on in our government, not even the current Democratic candidate who seems to be hiding out on Facebook and in safe home parties.
This week starts the Jewish New Year. This book burning, which might as well include the Old Testament along with the Qur’an (I heard the pastor say that he was most offended that the book does not recognize Jesus as the son of God), feels like a violation more than an expression of values.
When I think about the growing anger and divisiveness in my community and country, I feel helpless. Is there any way we can begin this new year in on a different note? Please join me in doing whatever you can to shift the consciousness back to honoring each other for the beauty in our differences instead of attacking each other and focusing on the worst of stereotypes for any given group.
I believe religious book burning is Anti-American. When does free speech become a violation?