"'Potter' book burning was misguided"
by Robert Seltzer ("El Paso Times," January 4, 2002)
It was a waste of time, energy and lighter fluid.
If Harry Potter could survive evil rivals, fiendish relatives and mountain trolls, what chance did a "holy bonfire" have?
Oh, hundreds of individuals tossed the "Harry Potter" books into the fire, turning the hero and his exploits into ashes.
But for every book consumed by the flames of intolerance, millions more remain intact -- most of them beyond the reach of the match-wielding zealots in Alamogordo, where Christ Community Church orchestrated the bonfire earlier this week.
To destroy all of them, the congregation would have to turn the world into a furnace.
And, then, Harry Potter would not be a literary character; he would be a martyr.
Does the church really want that?
Does it want to fuel an even greater passion for a series of books it already deems evil?
The bonfire might have been disgusting, even contemptible -- a waste of matches that could have been used to light a yule log. But the church members acted in, well, good faith. They saw an evil, the propagation of what they interpreted as witchcraft and devil worship, and they responded -- a response protected by the First Amendment.
While the church members might have exercised a right, however, that does not mean they were right to exercise it. They did not kill Harry Potter; Harry Potter will live as long as children read -- and adults should rejoice in that.
More than 40 million illiterate adults live in the United States, according to the National Institute for Literacy. Do we want their children to followin their tragic footsteps -- a fate worse than anything a witch or warlock could conjure?
Harry Potter has encouraged millions of children to abandon their video games, if only a few hundred pages at a time. If that is witchcraft, we should glory in the magic. Give a child a compelling book, and you have the best baby-sitter money can buy, as any parent can attest.
And the wizard?
If Harry Potter is evil, we should hurl "The Wizard of Oz" into the same bonfire. And "Macbeth." And "Le Morte D'Arthur." And ... .
When people set fire to books, they practice the worst kind of tyranny. They try to stifle the one thing we should prize above all else -- our imaginations. They will never succeed. "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" -- all have been banned and burned, and all have survived.
The Harry Potter books may dramatize the art of witchcraft, but they also explore courage, loyalty and love -- qualities that we should encourage, not condemn. The children who read the books are wiser than the adults who burn them. If only we could eradicate intolerance as easily as we do works of art.