Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

THE OLDEST HATRED

          America’s certified moral diseases have returned with a vengeance, and old craziness is resurrected in multiple forms.

          Startled as we are by flagrant racism; violence towards women and children; as well as gays, lesbians, bi- and trans-sexual citizens, should we be? In my earliest career as an aspiring reformer, I was abused of the notion that people need but hear and know the truth, and the national character will be transformed in a trice. Silly me.

         Annual celebrations of M.L. King, Jr.’s life and message but remind us to re-set our expectations of racial equality. Courts continue to be filled with cases of domestic and family abuse, and hardly a day passes without news items of horrific torture and killing of those who are not strictly heterosexual. Racism as we really know it began with the forceful transport of slaves to this hemisphere. And though women have typically been second-class or worse in historical civilizations they have also been queens, priests and sometimes the sole authorities in scattered societies to which of course we pay scant attention in our education.

           That said, I wish to speak of the oldest hatred of all: antisemitism. The ravaging of Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg came amid holiday preparations, the latter of which ever trump serious concerns.

           Hatred towards Jews is old enough to have beards longer than all  patriarchs put together. The Jewish problems is not that they are too smart for their own good but admirably too smart to suit the rest of us. Never mind that Jewish immigration from all over the world has enhanced U.S. culture and intellectual heft. That migration, by the way, is never as large as sometimes touted: they are and always have been a fraction of world population. So what’s the problem?

          The big gripe is the misbegotten notion that since the beginning of time they’ve always been around the money. Nay, they began as did all peoples, tillers of soil with this distinction: they were among the best of cultivators, and powerful elites, making mountains out of religious and cultural molehills, found ways to take it for themselves, always with lame excuses that invoked fear and loathing of perceived differences.

          It didn’t help that the ancient land of the Hebrews was necessarily as small as the number of inhabitants, and became a football kicked between superpowers of the times–brutish dogs of war unleashed by Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and the like. Along the way Jews were forced by exclusion to seek other means of gainful endeavor, viz., shopkeepers and artisans, though many, due to their brain power and ability were chosen to serve in the courts of sovereigns—until a new and intolerant reign swooped them out again, using all the lame excuses.

          During their many dispersals, never at peace and loathed by all, they traveled by foot selling wares borne on their backs or as tinkers, or menders of pots, and those who stayed behind were left in communities unsupported by government. Each time, due to discrimination or too much success they were evicted from all livelihoods, till world nations found themselves in financial pickles and discovered that Jews were among the emerging wizards who could bail them out. And once out, said nations gave them the boot once again but not until Jews financed some of the great cathedrals of Europe—a curious irony among Christian leaders who at auspicious time invoked the “Christ-killer” canard on their Jewish economic saviors.

          Why a Baptist boy from the Missouri Ozarks could ever come to care about Jews and Judaism is a tale of growing up during World War II and post-conflict discovery of a “holocaust” of destruction unleashed by the Axis powers. I saw post-war movies that highlighted some of the horror and were jerked from screens for showing Jews too much as victims which, by the way, they were.

          Among my father’s effects after his death decades ago was “A History of the Jews” by Abram Sachar, as much of an objective account as one could possibly expect from a Jewish intellectual, which I absorbed to my everlasting benefit, and which I returned to 20 years ago and then again after the Tree of Life atrocity. I’ve often said that Americans would do well to read a damn book once in a while instead of gulping down misleading, anecdotal jabberings of Fox News and Alex Jones. Sachar’s text is long but readable and more relevant than romance novels and what’s on the latest menu of brain-eaters.

           Life is a journey of learning and happiness is knowledge. I thought that all discriminations would have ended with the past century but they remain and it is daunting to think that the oldest one of all is so far from banished. Perhaps if we solve that, the rest will follow.

          

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