Fire has always been the weapon of choice to prove a point, usually that one group has control over another. It was the very first terror weapon, a raging, snarling monster capable of devouring everything that was precious to anyone. When turned from its pedestrian uses of heating and cooking and lighting, it was a formidable enforcer. And still is.
This is no doubt why, in fits of rage, crowds take to fire as an instrument of that rage. The movie stereotype of the villagers wielding pitchforks and torches is not far from the truth, for in our hearts, we know that to apply the power of fire to something is to erase the thing, to make a statement that we will not be controlled or frightened by it. And so, the mad scientist's creation is set ablaze... or a witch is cleansed... or books with contradictory knowledge are placed upon a pyre... or a family is forced to watch a cross burning on their lawn. Yes, fire is the instrument of our anger, and the symbol of the loss of control, for while fire may do our bidding, it is not so easily tamed, and can as easily set about its own work as do ours. To play with fire, is to play with imminent destruction.
Nero fiddles, Rome burns.
There is a movement to mark the next anniversary of September 11th, 2001, by burning copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, in protest. There is another movement scheduled for the next day, to burn the Rebel Flag, symbol of the Confederacy, to show certain elements in this country that we are not frightened of them. Suddenly, it is no longer the 21st Century, but the 17th Century, or perhaps the 11th; in any event, in a time for the possibility of communication and conversation, we are reduced to the age-old tactics, as if, somehow, the fire will cleanse rather than scar. What is to be gained in either case, save to inflame passions, to ramp up rhetoric, to reinforce the walls that stand between us? Nothing concrete can be gained by these actions; they are the extension of our primitive animal selves, not the enlightened and thinking species we can be.
If there is ever to be true progress for humanity toward something better, if we ever are to enjoy the fruits of liberty and freedom, then we have to put down the weapons and rein in the dogmas of the past. We must stop giving in to our animal passions, for down that road lies the consumption of our species in an orgy of destruction. Better to be wiped out by an asteroid or solar flare, than to do ourselves in, tearing ourselves apart in our own ignorance and lust for blood.
Let us quench this fire, stanch the flow of intolerance, by showing that we need not fall back upon the mindless behaviors of our ancestors. Let those of us who value society show that we are better than that, that we will not be dragged into the muck that settles to the bottom of our species. We need not heap fuel upon the fire; we can, instead, call forth the rain, and stamp it out. To do so proves that we are ready to move out of the shadows and into the light.