It was like a whole library burned down

Laurie Anderson on the album Bright Red sings that when her father died, it was like a whole library had burned down.

When a library burns, it is a loss for the whole community. The Eckhart Public Library was burned by an arsonist in 2017. It had an awesome collection of resources that were gone overnight. At first, the hope was that some of the more valuable books could be cleaned and rescued but that wasn’t practical. The books are gone, rare edition or paperback novel, popular or ignored.

When someone in my family passes on, their stories and wisdom are gone. My grandpa’s knowledge of hatcheries and business management is unavailable. His stories of being a manager at Coca-Cola during WW II and helping neighbors exceed their sugar quota are just memories now. I can’t ask him what he saw when he visited China in 1978. My nephews and nieces’ kids won’t hear his stories, sense of humor and love of snowmobiles. Others in my family have also died. Their libraries were also burned down by cancer or old age.

The past two years, so many libraries have burned. So many people suddenly gone.

On a personal level, grandchildren may never learn from their grandparents. Children are without a parent to share love and hope with. Marriages have been violently torn apart by a virus. Parents who won’t be able to see their child graduate from college, get married and start a career.

On an economic level there are skills and expertise that can’t be replaced. The future cannot benefit from over 600,000 people’s insights and knowledge; they’re gone. The cost is inestimable.

If someone was carrying a torch into a library, they would be stopped at the door. The freedom to carry a torch is not of a higher order than the need to prevent arson.

With an infectious disease, carrying a viral torch can start many fires. No one can know who is in danger, but it’s society’s prerogative to protect libraries. It is civilization’s duty to keep them safe.

Although the analogy isn’t perfect, wearing a mask and getting vaccinated are how I can avoid carrying a torch. They also help me not ignite others torches. Some libraries are more flammable than others, requiring more caution. When the winds are strong, it may take more effort to protect libraries than on a calm day.

I don’t want any more libraries to burn. Libertarian logic is incompatible with public health. It ignores how past disease outbreaks are defeated. Polio and smallpox were conquered because the needs of the community exceeded personal preference.

Some restrictions can be an affront to personal liberty but there is no right to carry a torch into a library.

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