Naw, we haven’t had one of those since the 1980s…See the history of it here.
It’s also the title of a Tom Lehrer song. I would quote it except that I would have to write him and ask for permission (yup, he’s still around at 85), and I am just a no-name blogger. I can’t afford to pay for quoting song lyrics. Here’s a YouTube link to him performing this on The Frost Report, a tv show from 1966.
I remember this, actually – I was 10. My parents were huge David Frost and Tom Lehrer fans, so I grew up watching and listening to both. I know most of his songs by heart.
Anyway, I wanted to write a funny, witty post on bigotry, but the above is as light as it’s going to get. Because I just can’t find it in my heart to make light of anything that’s happened lately, particularly in France. It’s horrible and downright frightening.
Before I get into that, I want to explain something to the younger readers (or for those who come much later). I was born just 11 years after the end of WWII. Progressives – and I count my parents as among them – were damn happy that Hitler had been defeated and they were determined not to let the ugly face of antisemitism appear ever again, anywhere. I wasn’t around when the horrors of Nazi Germany took place, but I was taught about them as an example of the very worst that human beings are capable of.
And I was taught to speak up, to shout, to expose any kind of hatred like that when I saw or heard it. To say nothing, to do nothing…that was all the nurturing anyone had to do to allow evil to flourish.
And for awhile, tv and other public forums were reminders of that – there were episodes of The Twilight Zone, for example, that were really lessons about what happens when evil runs rampant, unchecked. Everyone knew that it was really about fascism and the lessons from WWII.
When I was a child, I had regular nightmares about death camps and so on. I wasn’t allowed to watch “Hogans Heroes” because it made light of that. I wouldn’t have wanted to watch anyway.
No, my family’s not Jewish. Does it matter? “Some of our best friends….” Quite the cliche, ain’t it, but I attended Seders and celebrated Hanukkah because my parents had friends who did and we were often invited. There is a history of Jewish participation in progressive social movements, so it’s not a surprise we had a lot of Jewish friends.
In my limited understanding, this comes from the concept of “tikkun olam”, which loosely translated means “repairing the world”. I don’t pretend to understand much of it, but I mention it here in case you guys want to look it up and find out more. As I understand it, Jewish people are called to be examples to the rest of the world in terms of social justice and doing the right thing.
So it is with great dismay and horror that I am seeing the rise of antisemitism in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the US.
Let’s start with France.
This week, a couple of jihadist brothers and a friend of theirs attacked a French news magazine and killed 12 people – yelling “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great”) and “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” (“Charlie Hebdo: Gun Attack on French Magazine Kills 12”, BBC News online, 1/7/2015).
Why? Because this satirical magazine dared to publish cartoons mocking Muhammed – oh and also depicted him, which I guess is one of the many things punishable by death in the extremist view of things.