I was reading an article for school called, “Burning Books and Destroying Peoples,” it was the story of the Spanish conquistadors invasion of the Mayan people in 1562. (Stay with me………..I promise I will make a point) Fray Diego de Landa ordered that the Spanish collect and burn any written work they came across. The mass burning deprived the world of this one particular culture and only 3 Mayan books remain by mistake. The Mayans were heavily into astronomy and mathematics-they spent a great deal studying both.
On May 10, 1933 the Germans mirrored this same type of destruction by ordering that all non-German works be burned. Thousands of books and journals by authors both famous and unknown were destroyed on the campus of Wilhelm Humbolt University. Helen Keller wrote the German students a letter that read,
“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them. You can burn the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them seep through a million channels and will continue to quicken in minds. I gave the royalties of my books for all time to the German soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people….I deplore the injustice of passing on to unborn generations the stigma of your deeds.”
There were a few other events in world history when book burnings have taken place- China, Baghdad, the burning of the Beatles albums all over the world after John Lennon made a comment about being “bigger tha Jesus Christ”, and the destruction by fire to the Sarajevo National Library. One particular event that was not as well-known was the burning that took place in Butte, Montana in 2001, behind Montana Tech. This ”Thespis* -style’ event is bound to be talked about in classrooms everywhere, or at least in Southwestern Montana. I have heard whispers about it, small stories here and there, and although i do not know all the facts because I was not there…I can only tell you what I do know from a friend of a friend of a friend type deal.
It was a crisp summer’s eve in Butte, Montana – home of Evel Kneivel, Rob Johnson, Keith Sayers, Colt Anderson, Levi Leipheimer, lacyandnikki.wordpress.com, Coach bob Green, and acclaimed over-achiever aeronautical engineer Max William Yates. The place where Bonnie Blair trained at the High Altitude speedskating rink and where Spanky Spangler nearly lost his life in a horrific yet shamelessly entertaining stunt -where he jumped some 13 cars. It was in this place Butte- that six girls would set out to define the meaning of liberation–or so the story goes….
The 6 smart, funny and always classy girls drove up to the desolate area behind Montana Tech after purchasing a small amount of firewood from Albertsons. They loaded into a purple Rav 4 and hit the backroads all the way to Montana Tech. These girls were on a mission to free themselves of their jealous and super so-not-cool ex-boyfriends. They brought with them an aresenal of memories- letters, pictures, and gifts given to us..errr them. They started the fire and continued to feed it well into the night. The fire began to rage out of control and took on a life of it’s own- gulping up the hillside and incinerating the lush shrubbery and foliage that seems to be everywhere in that particular area. When the fire looked as if it could threaten the lives of innocent civillians in uptown Butte one of the girls risked her own life to save her friends and the community that she loved so much. She chased the fireball for a fair distance before stomping it out -and before she could slow herself from the massive speed that she accelerated to, she found herself rolling down a very steep cliff. She rolled and rolled and toppled head over feet, head over feet and finally was able to stand in the dark pit (not the Berkely Pit) just a random pit in the Montana Tech area..she brushed herself off and hollered for her friends. She could hear their voices in a very distant far off place..she knew she would be okay. The girl miraculously used her senses of touch, and smell ..maybe even a little taste to find her way to the top of the cliff and reunited with her friends. They were so glad she was ok- they hugged and laughed and talked about the near-death experience and then got back into the rav4 and headed home. The girls had a very successful night- they destroyed the evidence that their relationships ever existed and now the only evidence of the un-named ex-boyfriends can be found every so often in the Montana Standard in the “On the Books” section. phewwww so much for learning experiences.
*Thespis- a 6th Century Greek poet regarded as the father of tragic drama.