The statues are falling.
One after another, the statues are being pulled down, and with them falls the ideology. As each bronze face tumbles earthward, the white, slave-owning face that inspired it suffers a sense of vertigo. As each cast piece of anchored metal is set free from its base, that confederate likeness will experience more freedom than many who entered North America from Africa did their whole lives. As it is knocked from its pedestal, it inspires fear, regret, and pain over a destroyed idea of the past.
For if anything is true, this week, we learned that our sacred ideas of history in America now lie shattered at our feet. If anything is true, this week, we learned that when idols fall, elements of history we once thought were dead – unable to rise again – appear, they appear in the billowing dust as the statues hit the ground.
In the dust, we see faces, ghosts of history – Nazis, gathering for a rally, arm outstretched, Klansmen standing in their hoods. In the dust, we see the faces of our fellow Jews, taking Torahs out of the ark, as they leave through the back door, for armed men are standing at the front, threatening just by their presence and the presence of their machine guns. In the dust we see the faces, 84 years ago this week here in Toronto – of fists swinging through the crowd, aiming at Jewish and Italian heads at Christie Pits.
And as the dust clears, it clears not because there is some great leader who chooses right over wrong or good over evil. The dust clears simply because the rally has ended, the statue is down. But the ghosts which rose still walk, marching again today, emboldened by the life breathed into them by this episode, from the darkness into the daylight.
These are some of the words I shared this past Shabbat with the congregation based on the events in Charlottesville.
I wanted to share with you three articles I have read this past week on this upsetting rally and its aftermath, as a way of framing the conversation.
- Firstly, if you are not facebook friends with Rabbi Splansky – you’ve missed out on a few of these great articles in ‘real-time.’ Please take a moment to follow this link, and send her a friend request here.
- One of the stories which hit home for me the hardest was that of Alan Zimmerman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA – our sister Reform congregation. Read it here.
- Another article is by one of the rabbis in that community, about her experiences: Nathan Englander is a writer in New York City who form a special core of young Jewish authors turning out incredible books, such as his “What We Talk About When We Talk About Ann Frank”. Here is his account of how this incident changes his view of history.
- And finally, this article, which I personally find to be ‘too much’, but that I think is worth pondering. When is it right to stand and try to staunch the tide – and when does holding a position of responsibility mean you are condoning the wrong that is happening?