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Jul 11 2011

This post is for Lawrence Hill

Regular readers here will remember my frustration and anger toward a Dutch group representing ancestors of former slaves, who threatened to burn a book by one of my favourite authors, Lawrence Hill. Not only are book burnings stupid and counterproductive (since they elevate the profile of the idea you’re attempting to destroy), but they are barbaric and violent. Burning a book is an implicit threat to the author of that book, not simply a rejection of an idea.

The second part of my frustration was the fact that it was clear that the people involved had not bothered to even read coverage of the book. They let their single-minded focus on the issue of the title completely blind them to the fact that the book is about slavery and its related horrors. Not only that, but the title of the book (the source of their objection) is based on an actual existing document – it is a reference to a real thing. If they had stopped for 5 seconds before getting their backs up, they would have easily understood the significance.

However, they chose to ignore the lessons of history and just good sense, and staged the burning anyway. They did it at the slavery memorial in Osterpark in Amsterdam. As you know, I was in Amsterdam recently, and I visited Osterpark.

Mr. Hill, these photos are for you:

 

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We shouldn’t burn books. We certainly shouldn’t burn great books. We should learn from them, and if we disagree we should exercise our rights to free speech to do so. Those same free speech rights protect things we like and dislike, and threatening those rights with fire is threatening our entire civilization.

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