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  • Jocelyn Briddell

Bibliophobia Brings Burn Baby Burn

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Last week I saw this photo and felt so many feelings. First alarm, then anger, sadness, and finally the feeling of how stupid these people look! Who burns books? And then I remembered another book burning fiasco in our world history and found a similar photo of Nazi Germany citizens burning books. I’ve always thought that people who did this were emotionally unintelligent. But it is until recently that I gave thought to why.

Books have shaped my life in so very many ways. I remember as a child my mom would let a friend and me walk every Saturday morning in the summer to the library. I loved making the journey on hot lazy summer days to a place that was cool and full of faraway worlds, different cultures and ideas. I would always get five books, one for each day of the week, so I had enough time to read them and return them all that next Saturday for five more. Once home, I would try to read all day. My mom would actually have to force me outside to play. And yes, I was the kid at night with a flashlight reading after I was supposed to go to bed!

No surprise, my parents are avid readers. My mom still completes a book in two days. I’m having to provide her with an Amazon card so she can purchase books at will. My dad, who has dementia and is close to the last twilight of this disease, still picks up a magazine or newspaper. We don’t think he’s reading but who knows? My point is this is what I’ve been exposed to all of my life – the reading of books. My parents gave me this wonderful gift and they never censored what I read. I am grateful that they did not.

When I was 13 years old I told my Sunday school teacher I had some questions about the old and new testament. The very next Sunday, the same teacher, who was a librarian by the way, brought several books and asked me to read them. I did. I learned a lot and understood better that it was the new testament I wanted to live my life by. I was grateful for my teacher to expose me to books that helped me to discern my thoughts. While the books I read didn’t fully change my opinions, it did help me create a spiritual path that I live by to this very day.

Books help us to process our world views and give us the information necessary to draw our own conclusions. They open us up to life stories, adventure, and allow us to engage with others. They teach us how to cook, make wine, needlepoint and any other thing you wish to explore. This is what reading books do. But, once again in our history, there are people who are afraid of what books can do. They believe that by somehow reading them will influence a child or teenager, like for example what it means to be a trans teenager, and change them instead of having the confidence in the reader to make their own choice about what they’ve read. Maybe the reader has a friend who identifies as trans and they want to support them. Maybe they want to understand their lives because they are driven by a faith that promotes loving all humans.? And yes, maybe they feel that they are trans themselves. And what’s really a hoot is that anything can be found on the internet today. So, what’s the point? The point is that these people are afraid.

People are afraid books empower others so burning books represents just that.

Today, I proudly sit on a board of trustees that service our 5 libraries in our county. I’m thrilled that I have been entrusted to serve on this board because of my love for books and what they taught me. Public libraries provide others with information, a thirst of knowledge, academic curiosity and imaginary places for all of us. Those of us who watched this “book burning” found it repulsive and sacrilegious to all that we know and live by. It is an act of violence against free thinking and progress.

Empowering others to think freely and arrive at their own conclusions is not only paramount to progress, but it is at the crux of leadership. Leadership is not about controlling people but about empowering people, which is exactly what books do. The burning of books as a way to censor thought is short-lived. It only demonstrates the ignorance of those who are trying to inflict limitations on others or make a political point. The Third Reich didn’t get very far. These folks in Tennessee won’t either. Smart people make good leaders.

Go get a book!

Jocelyn Briddell, Ed. D. serves as our anchor blogger. In addition to her work as the Assistant Director of the Richard. A. Henson Honors Program at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, she loves to garden, cook, and renovate spaces as well as the thinking surrounding leadership. Quite frankly, Jocelyn is an inspiration to us as an active and passionate life long leader and learner.

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