Visiting a local book store recently, I bought the book “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. I had read some of Bradbury’s books in the past (I’m a science fiction fan) and thought I would enjoy this one. Unfortunately, the book written in 1951 has so many parallels with today’s political climate that I am not sure I can finish it.
The plot covers the life of Guy Montag, a fireman in the not too distant future. The occupation of the firemen in Bradbury’s story is markedly different from the firemen today. Montag’s crew of firemen are tasked with burning books as well as the houses of the people that own them. It does not matter what books are in the house; their mere presence qualifies for destruction.
The firemen pull their hoses from the fire truck and start spraying kerosene on the offensive house. The kerosene is ignited, and the fire destroys the house and the books in it.
If the owner of the house refuses to leave, then the firemen burn him or her, too. The government has ordered that this is to be done because books contain dangerous ideas.
The similarity to today is the effort of the Trump Republicans and the Georgia State Board of Education to limit the discussion of Critical Race Theory. The full definition of CRT is complicated, involving White privilege and economic advantage based simply on the color of skin. However the CRT acronym makes it something that the Trump Republicans can get excited about. It looks good on a poster held up at a school board meeting, and it allows a racist to appear as someone that is only interested in having the youngsters in public schools receive the “correct” history instruction. With CRT prohibited in public schools, there may be no discussion of the year 1619 when the first boatload of slaves arrive in America; no discussion on the impact of slavery on the writers of the U.S. Constitution; no discussion of the attacks on the Black community in Tulsa in 1921 or in Atlanta in 1906; no discussion of the differences between Black and White economic status; and no discussion of the impact of the KKK and the Jim Crow laws on Black residents.
As I see it, there is only a small difference between the firemen of Bradbury’s book and the Georgia State Board of Education. I find that frightening.