Here’s The Thing About Burning Bibles

by Cookie

close up photography of white smoke

Photo by Joy Marino on

This is probably going to be a very unpopular post with a lot of people I know.  Probably with a lot of people I don’t know too.

I’ve seen the pictures and videos showing protesters burning American flags and Bibles in Portland.  It’s not a nice thing to see. It’s offensive to a lot of folks and shockingly bold to the rest.

But if you are enraged by those images without understanding it, you are still not getting the point about ANY of this.

Look, I don’t like the idea of burning Bibles and flags. Those things are supposed to be symbols of strength and safety and peace. They represent what is supposed to be good in this world.  The American flag is a symbol of freedom and opportunity.  The Bible is our reference to love and salvation.

Why would anyone want to burn those things?

Well, what if you felt like they were only symbols of those things for certain people?  BEYOND that, what if you felt like they have actually become weapons for those who are preventing you from attaining the very things that the flag and the Bible promise? What if you felt that a large number of the people wielding them were simply using them as shields to deflect their own poor behaviour towards your community? What if you felt they had become tools of exploitation and discrimination? What if the things that they represent for some have ceased to to exist for you?

I don’t like the fact that Bibles and flags are getting burned, but I can certainly understand why some folks might want to burn them.

They are angry.  They want your attention. They want to know why one Black man kneeling during the National Anthem is more offensive than one Black man dying.  They want to know why you are more enraged by a flag or Bible burning than you are watching a man be murdered right in front of you. And how you continue to deny that maybe there is a problem in America- and everywhere else in the world too.

Are you angry? Do they have your attention?  Do you feel uncomfortable?  Do feel like your power is slipping away?

If you do, then the protests might be starting to do their job.  The whole point of all of this is so that we experience the lack of control over our environment the way marginalized communities do. Protests are not effective unless there is something at stake- otherwise it’s easy to just ignore them.

And PUH-LEASE don’t start with the “NOT ALL XYZ”.  Everyone is aware that there are many good people that do so much good work for those around them. It doesn’t erase the systemic issues going on in our countries. There are good people everywhere. This isn’t about them.

Out of curiosity, would the same people be angry if they were watching a Quran burn? Or would that somehow be an act of patriotism?  If this question made you pause even for a second, ask yourself why that is. And then try to understand what you’re seeing on your computer or tv for what they are, and not what you assume them to be.

I feel frustrated that we are wasting energy debating about the existence of racism and marginalization. It’s exhausting and getting old. We could be using it all to make positive changes in the world, and yet here folks are, burning shit down because they still don’t have our attention. I can’t help but feel like it’s not because we can’t support change, but it’s because so many of us just like things the way they are.