Deconstructing “For Such a Time,” Part 4: What Really Matters

Subtitle: The End Times (Finally)

I’ve written a lot of words about this book. I was going to write even more — more excerpts and more articles and more self-righteous sarcasm about hidden anti-Semitism.

Then I came across an interview with author Kate Breslin posted mid-August on a video series called “Heritage of Truth.”

I didn’t watch it. I couldn’t even look past the YouTube caption. My words died. My brain shut down. My capslock key whimpered in fear.

I can’t handle any more close reads. My tolerance is gone. I’ve finally hit Outrage Fatigue.

Faith is not us vs. them.

Open your eyes. Open your ears. Open your hearts. Get your heads out of your asses.

But to really understand why talking about For Such a Time is still important — why it will always be important — other people’s words matter much more than mine.

These are the voices that resonated strongly with me.

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Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion, 1938 (Copyrighted image from the Art Institute of Chicago)White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall, 1938

The 1938 painting White Crucifixion represents a critical turning point for the artist Marc Chagall: it was the first of an important series of compositions that feature the image of Christ as a Jewish martyr and dramatically call attention to the persecution and suffering of European Jews in the 1930s.

In White Crucifixion, his first and largest work on the subject, Chagall stressed the Jewish identity of Jesus in several ways: he replaced his traditional loincloth with a prayer shawl, his crown of thorns with a headcloth, and the mourning angels that customarily surround him with three biblical patriarchs and a matriarch, clad in traditional Jewish garments. At either side of the cross, Chagall illustrated the devastation of pogroms: On the left, a village is pillaged and burned, forcing refugees to flee by boat and the three bearded figures below them—one of whom clutches the Torah— to escape on foot. On the right, a synagogue and its Torah ark go up in flames, while below a mother comforts her child. By linking the martyred Jesus with the persecuted Jews and the Crucifixion with contemporary events, Chagall’s painting passionately identifies the Nazis with Christ’s tormentors and warns of the moral implications of their actions.

~ The Art Institute of Chicago

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For all the pain you suffered, my mama. For all the torment of your past and future years, my mama. For all the anguish this picture of pain will cause you. For the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats. For the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world I do not comprehend. For dreams of horror, for nights of waiting, for memories of death, for the love I have for you, for all the things I remember, and for all the things I should remember but have forgotten, for all these I created this painting — an observant Jew working on a crucifixion because there was no aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment.

~ My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

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My Christian coworkers feel comfortable wearing a cross necklace. I do not wear a Star of David and I hide my last name when dealing with the public at work. I have been ranted at too many times with ideas from the Protocols of Zion, been given too much literature, too many lectures to try to bring me to Jesus, when I’m just trying to do my job. A job where I have to use vacation days to get off major holidays, vacation days a former employer used to deny because the other Jewish person I worked with had seniority.

This is modern Anti-Semitism, the micro-and-macro aggressions of daily life that come with being Jewish in the US in 2015.

~ Jen Rothschild

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…That’s the appeal of all this. It assures folks their ignorance is a virtue and their patriotism is a virtue, regardless of consequences.

… Regardless of their actions or the consequences of said actions, the intentions are ultimately magical. They don’t mean to commit genocide.

… That’s why it works so well in the Christian world-view, especially Protestant. Your true intentions ultimately determine your fate.

… Salvation comes through grace and faith. Actions can be sinful, but really, it boils down to your faith, your intentions.

… Because the Nazi regime didn’t depend solely on a handful of fanatical genocidal True Believers overseeing the rest of the innocent country.

… It depended on a history of antisemitism built into the culture, ongoing passivity, and a belief in the fundamental goodness of patriotism.

… And the notion that ordinary people can come to see murder as good so long as they distance themselves from the victims & benefit from it.

… The fact that this kind of thing is popular in the US and in Christian fiction is a direct consequence of that propaganda.

… But it comforts people who don’t want to get their hands dirty in challenging the social structures that benefit them. It supports power.

~ India Valentin

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Anti-Semitism in America is deliberate, insidious, and manipulative.

… anti-Semitism in America wears many masks, and one of them is silence. It is as violent as the others. Silence is not neutrality. Silence allows, if not fosters, oppression, aggression, and erasure. If you are silent on this book, please take a moment to examine why you are silent.

… Because we fear, even now, today, that one day, it’ll happen again. Here. And history has proven to us again, and again, and again, that we can say never again, and we can say never forget, but we Jews are the only ones saying that. When you erase the Holocaust, you erase me. You say that my life is meaningless. You say, you are only an object.

…I’ve had more kind comments than cruel ones, it’s true. More people saying I’ve opened their eyes to issues of anti-Semitism in the United States than people who have emailed me Holocaust denial, Holocaust jokes, tweeted swastikas at me, etc. But the cruel ones, the offensive ones, the hate…it sticks to your mind. It bends your back. It sinks into your bones. It exhausts you. It drains you. It destroys.

~ Katherine Locke

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But here’s the thing: I live in a time and a place where it is not illegal to speak up. It is not illegal to be Jewish. I live in a country that was built on political dissidents and ragged refugees, a country whose birth was defined by the idea that protest is a gorgeous, progressive thing. I can worship how I like. I can speak my mind. And there are millions of men and women and children who never had that opportunity. Who never will.

And despite that, we’ve known all our lives that life is easier when we keep our heads down and our mouths shut. When we allow the world to ignore us. When we allow the world to erase us.

But I will not be ignored. I will not let anyone to erase us from history. I will raise my head, and I will shout for everyone who cannot.

We are here. We are still here. After everything–after everything–we are still here.

~ Sara Taylor Woods

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But let’s be real clear, shall we?

You may not use tragedies that we have suffered through as a vehicle for your religious agenda.

Why are we still angry?

Why are we still angry?

Why are you giving us reasons to still be angry?

Why are you telling us that it’s not that big a deal?

That we’re too “WHITE” to have ever been persecuted?

That we don’t have what to complain about?

When have you lived the life of a Jew in 2015?

Have you realized yet that anti-semitism has never left? That it is more subtle now, that it’s ‘calm down, it wasn’t such a big deal’?

Why are we still angry?

We have never stopped being angry.

We will never stop being angry.

~ KK Hendin

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Bloody hell.

Just as I finished proofreading this post, a new article came across my Twitter timeline:

Do Novelists Have to Be Politically Correct Now?Appropriating a controversy and draping in “political correctness” and “discomfiture”  to promote your own book? Badly done, Warren Adler. Badly done.

One more quote, and then I’m really truly done.

Arguing that anyone can write anything about anyone at any time, or else it is censorship, is the publishing equivalent of #AllLivesMatter.

~ lutheranjulia

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