Monday, November 20, 2023
My current Sunday School class is going through a series of lectures on the “History of Christianity.” Yesterday we studied the period just before the Reformation – the period of the plague. Antisemitism raised its ugly head then. Half the population of Europe died in the plague and the survivors tended to “blame the Jews.” In point of fact, a survey of history shows antisemitism coming and going in waves throughout history. That makes the clip the host played repeatedly this morning of a march through NYC shouting “Kill the Jews” (behind the Hughniverse paywall) as unsurprising as it is horrifying. But this observation does help us find the cure to this disease that is moving through the nation much faster than covid.
The covid analogy is most apt. As observed, antisemitism waxed in the wake of the Black Plague. In point of fact throughout history it is associated with hard times. Another example, the rise of Nazism in Germany, with its deeply embedded antisemitic outlook, came as the nation suffered under the thumb of the WWI ending Treaty of Versailles. Great rises in antisemitism are strongly associated with hard times. So, it makes sense that in the wake of the depravations our, and the world’s, covid response policies inflicted on the world we would once again see the ugly and heinous head of antisemitism raised.
And so, direct and punitive response to antisemitism (firing professors, failing students. deleting material from the internet, etc.) probably will not help matters. In fact, such punitive actions will likely add to the discontent and suffering that would historically appear to fuel antisemitism. Now, let’s be sure and differentiate between dealing with antisemitism and dealing with the 10/7 attacks. Antisemitism is an attitude and an outlook – what happened on 10/7 was an act of war. Israel has no choice, but we are not Israel and what is going on here is very different.
The cure for antisemitism in this nation is the return of good times. The challenge is that historically it can take great historical spasms to achieve the return of good times – the Reformation, WWII. Can we avoid it this time? Frankly I don’t know. The polling tells us we are looking at Biden v Trump 2.0 – that’s more of same and not going to help matters, regardless of who wins.
This is not easy to put into a sound bite, but I think we need to figure out a way because I think we have identified THE campaign issue. Since Rome, “Blame the Jews,” has been a response to hard times. Historically the only thing that has quelled the tide has been the return of good times. Let’s bring them back.