Tuesday, September 07, 2010

won't be water next time, it'll be fire, says an old folk song, warning us that noah's flood won't be repeated but it will likely be worse, and soon enough. every time you hear of those fires, outside of boulder, for example, or outside of l.a., you imagine an inferno where there is no water or not enough to make a difference. a friend tells a story of how he accidentally walked away from a campfire, which set a yard on fire, and threatened an old house, way out in the country, but a farmer happened to be driving by on a tractor, and dug a ditch right in the way of the fire, saving the house.

so, the stories we told, by the campfire; then come home to find out this christian group wants to burn the koran to protest muslim extremism. my first reaction is, no, i wouldn't burn a bible either, even if all the people who read it were extremists. there's something missing in the logic here. would you burn usa today? would you burn the salt lake tribune?

i have enough of a hard time burning an old box of cheerios, knowing that the ink they used to make the picture of the hero hitting a home run, is probably toxic and will do something to the fresh air around a campfire. i wouldn't mind burning old textbooks, or old notes for courses i took, but even this is not so much exorcising things i have a lively dislike of, so much as just unloading something i don't want to carry around. holy books don't qualify for either, so, i'll just let it go i guess. but it reminds me of a couple of stories. i'm not a flag burner or a koran burner, but i am a story teller.

back in the old days you'd go through o'hare airport and the hare krishnas would spot you for someone who might be a sucker for a hare krishna holy book. this they would offer to give you for free, pointing out the beautiful pictures of krishna himself, or maybe the many-headed god-elephant, or some such thing in a saffron color, in the middle of the book. all this was fine and good, especially since it was free, but it soon became apparent that it wasn't really free, and they wanted upward of seven to ten bucks, because, after all, this was god and gods we were talking about. ok so i didn't have seven bucks, thank you anyway, i'm on my way home to iowa, so i really don't need the many0-headed elephants or the krishna beating the bad guys with a golden sword and a halo of enlighenment. the sales pitch gets more and more intense; he refuses to let me go in any way without extracting some money out of me; he finally settles for about five, but both of us are aggravated at the poor outcome and i'm especially peeved and somewhat stuck on the word "free" which i had distinctly heard in the beginning of the conversation. but what the heck, the pictures were good.

and then in the cedar rapids airport, which at that time was a small, homey place, plain, no international flights or anything, a policeman walks up to me, and gives me two more of the holy books, bhagavad gitas, they are called. these two are slightly different from each other, but one is the same as the one i'm carrying. you can have these, he says; it looks like you're going to iowa city. somebody left these behind in the airport, he says, and we didn't want to throw them away, because they have the nice pictures and all; but, if you're going there, maybe you can find someone who can use them.

i tell and retell this story, because, at that time, a policeman was the last guy i wanted walking up to me out of the blue; yet, his message had a kind of iowan utilitarianism to it. it wasn't especially harsh on the religion at all; it meant nothing to him really. it was more that he didn't want to throw away a perfectly good book, no matter what it was about. better to find somebody who would at least know what to do with it.

now having a book that was truly dangerous, say, like a book about how to build a bomb out of fertilizer, or some such thing, maybe i'd want to keep out of the public library. which reminds me, someone was stoned the other day; i hadn't heard of anything like that happening, since i read the bible itself, but i sure wouldn't want that habit catching on, or have anyone picking up any directions on how to do it and get away with it. some books have a way of inciting people, and others have a way of telling them how to cause trouble, but what you really don't want are people who read both kinds, and read them in order, so as to cause the maximum damage. maybe some librarian could be keeping track of this stuff, but it's not likely, since the library's budget has been cut, and it's all they can do to keep the newspapers off the floor.


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