Vol. 1, Issue #23 Dec. 8th - Dec. 21st, 2006

Fahrenheit 451 in Relevance to Today's Political Climate
By: Kristi Brooks

It’s a simple question: How far are we willing to let ourselves be controlled in the name of comfort and safety? It seems to me that if the government labels it as something for our well being, then we’re almost willing to give up anything they ask for.

I swear, the way some people jump on the bandwagon of government safeguards, it’s as if these guys were offering up immortality in a bottle.

Every time I look around, the lawmakers are thinking up some new plan, some new strategy to keep us safer. I am not ranting against sides, because the Democrats are just as bad about the situation as the Republicans. One side just seems to want to lock up our morals while the other side wants to ensure our safety.

It just seems to me I’ve read this story before, and I know how everything ends. In the classic, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury goes to great lengths to show us what our society would look like if we tried to protect everyone and everything around us. Eventually, we would become so reliant on the government for our news and our safety that we would willingly let them remove all forms of communication and thought from our lives.

I know people might be thinking I’ve gone off the deep end here, but trust me, I have a good and valid point for bringing a fifty year old book into modern day issues. The reason the government declared books illegal in the first place in Fahrenheit 451 was that too many groups of people were arguing in and amongst themselves about what the best way to live was. The public cried out for help in deciding what to do with their lives, and was promptly told that reading was the root of this evil because reading led to independent thought, and that would only led to chaos.

What do we do when we find something that causes us grief? Why, remove it of course. This has always been our government’s response to our problems, and it probably always will. Every time I hear about how they want to ban the sell of cough syrup over the counter because teenagers are using it to get drunk, or how they want to ban pit bulls because someone got bit, or even how they want to make campuses like Oklahoma State University an entirely smoke-free place so that people can’t even smoke outside, I get worried.

I get worried because we, the people, are taking ourselves out of the equation. It’s no longer our fault: it’s an addiction, it’s the breed of dog, it’s for our own good to pass these laws. We need a big brother watching out for us or eventually we’re all going to self-destruct.

In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury very clearly points out that this path is not any better or safer for us because at the base of every politician is a person. And people cannot be trusted with other’s welfare because people have had years and years of survival built into them that tells them to take care of number one first. They watch out for themselves first and foremost.

I know this may seem like a very bleak take on the world and our political system, but I think that the essence behind Bradbury’s moving story is the same in today’s language as it was back then. It is a tale of surrender, redemption, and survival in which one man comes to grips with the fact that he has no control over his life until he steps outside of the sphere of normal, set forth by the government, and takes it back. He may be homeless, jobless, and wifeless, at the end of that book, but he has gained a great deal more than that by the simple fact of opening his eyes.

The same could be said for us. If we are so afraid of dealing with life, then we should be challenging ourselves to make sure that we try to get out and come to grips with this in our own way, not relying on the government to tell us how to live and then force us to comply for our own good. By turning to them every time, we encounter a problem as a society that we are doing nothing to fix the actual problem.

In Fahrenheit 451, burning books did not quench people’s desire to learn, to experience the world around them, it just drove their frustrations deeper and made them change their methods. Likewise, banning cough syrup is not going to fix the problem of teenagers drinking. Each time we try to do something other than deal with the root of the problem, we’re only allowing those in power to make superficial swipes at trying to correct it.

And, don’t think that when they’re done relegating people like smokers to the outskirts of our society that they won’t start in on something else. Before too long, being overweight won’t be tolerated, I mean, there are already “junk food” taxes on the books in several states right now.

How long until we are all forced to look and act the same, to be part of the cookie-cutter solution and fit into the mold we are told that we should fit into? How long until we sacrifice our individuality for safety? How long until we burn books just so that we will no longer have to think?

Better yet, how long do you think it would take them to systematically strip us bare and change us?

If we don’t stop letting ourselves be led like cattle it won’t be long. Nope, not long at all…

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