UNITED STATES– Fifty major earthquakes rocked the United States yesterday, leaving over a hundred thousand people dead. At exactly 6:38 AM, Eastern Standard Time, each of the fifty states experienced an earthquake that measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. But what was even more shocking than the actual earthquakes were American’s reactions to them. Within minutes, thousands of bookstores and libraries across the nation were looted.
“According to polls, one out of every four Americans read no books last year,” said Olivia Demerest, president of the National Association of Librarians. “So after the earthquakes struck, the last thing I expected to see was a full scale riot outside of a Mississippi library.” The riot that Demerest is referring to took place at the Booker T. Washington Memorial Library in the city of Jackson. Shortly after a librarian announced that their entire selection of books written by Friedrich Nietzsche had been either borrowed or stolen, patrons became violent. “One guy pointed a gun at me,” recalled Demerest. “He said, ‘My home was destroyed and my family was killed. You would at least think that I could get a copy of Nietzsche’s essay The Birth Of Tragedy.’ This goes to show you that during times of intense crisis, people turn to the great philosophers for guidance.” But according to Justin Nadal, a Barnes & Noble employee from Encino, California, looters were taking any books they could get their hands on. “You would think that if an American were to read a book, it would be a book about NASCAR or something,” said Nadal. “That wasn’t the case. History, science, current events, fiction–it didn’t matter what type of books they were. As soon as these people started to think that they might have to go a few days without reading, they got scared.”
That might be so, but one question remains unanswered: why? After the terrorist attacks of 2001, not only wasn’t there any looting of bookstores or libraries, but there wasn’t even an increase in the sale of books. In 1992, there was massive looting during the Los Angeles riots, but the only items that were stolen were television sets and other appliances. “I’m as confused by this as you are,” said Eddie Heegan, a spokesman for FEMA. “Following a natural disaster, the first things that people usually seek are food, water, and flashlights, not the novels of Thomas Pynchon.”
Either way, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Americans are now far more educated as a result of the looting. Michael Byrnes, a fifty-six-year-old from Dane County, Wisconsin, is a perfect example of this. “I don’t know why the earthquakes left me with a sudden urge to read,” he said. “Up until yesterday, I never read a book in my entire life. But I’m glad that I did because I learned some things that totally blew my mind! For example, did you know that there are other countries besides the United States? Who would’ve thought?” Rebecca Belafort, a resident of Rutland, Massachusetts, was also surprised to learn that there are other countries. “For years, whenever I heard the term ‘UK,’ I assumed that it was an assault rifle,” she said. “Little did I know that UK stands for United Kingdom.”
President Bush, who only visited areas struck by the earthquakes where the average annual household income was one million dollars or more, vowed to stop the looting. “Books have lots of big, difficult words in them,” he said. “So why anyone would want to do something as painful as reading during a time like this is beyond me. Either way, the looting must stop. Therefore, in order to stop the looters, I am ordering the National Guard to burn down all bookstores and libraries.”
June 22, 2008