Not good for the Jews

From Maggie's Farm, an American Jew's attempt to understand why the tide is turning against Jews in America:
The unimaginable evil of the Holocaust seemed to kill anti-Semitism, even the polite country-club variety that shows up in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. After the war, Hemingway disavowed Jewish jokes, which, he seemed to realize, were connected, in some way, to what happened. It created a bubble, a zone of safety not only for Jews but for other minorities. It’s no coincidence that the civil right movements came in the wake of WWII. Anti-Semitism still existed of course, but, in America, it became socially unacceptable. It retreated to the bedrooms and parlors, where it was expressed in the way of certain mystery religions, in secret, behind closed doors, so quietly you might think it had vanished.
This is my childhood, the world where I grew up. The horror of the Holocaust purchased us a 70-year vacation from history, though we didn’t know it. We believed the world had changed, as had human nature. Jews remained distinct in the new dispensation, but in a good way—a near-at-hand exotic, a symbol of exile, which we were told was the natural state of modern man. For perhaps the only time in history, you might actually want to be a Jew. Because of the close families and good husbands and yada yada. Saul Bellow, Phillip Roth, Mel Brooks. To those of us who came of age in these years, the future seemed like it would be more of the same, the present carried on forever.
We were wrong.

1 comment:

Grim said...

This was what Lincoln meant by the 'silent artillery of time' -- he was referring to the sacrifices of the American Revolution, the last of those who had lived through it were dying off in his day. There's something about that shift from memory to history that robs even these powerful things of much of their force.

Padraig Pearce came to the same insight in the late 19th century, as regarded the dead of the Fenian revolutionary attempts against the British in Ireland. He realized that what was needed to reinvigorate the cause of Irish revolution was... more dead. And it worked. The Irish revolutionaries who were shot after the Easter Rising of 1916 became the martyrs who provoked the rebellion.

Hopefully we can find a better way to reinvigorate our commitment to befriending our Jewish fellow citizens than Pearce's approach. But it's also true that Lincoln was part of a similar process, reforging the nation's unity in blood.

Maybe it's not just the Holocaust, by the way. I've been noticing that as the last of the WWII generation dies off, America's losing a lot of the sense of itself as a whole that was born of the common sacrifices in that cause. This may be part of that shift: not just anti-Semitic, but a part of a general balkanization.