A Student of History

January 19, 2007

Lee’s Birthday, Part 2

There are 2 stories in the Wash Post today on Lee.

One is here, and starts:

It’s the 200th birthday of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who is revered by some and reviled by others. Commemorations and protests are planned across Virginia and other Southern states, proving that more than 140 years after the end of the Civil War, Lee is still a pivotal, controversial and complicated figure in American history and continuing race and culture wars.

Another is here:

History buffs and Confederate enthusiasts are marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Southern icon still revered by many as a brilliant military strategist nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War.

Then there is this opinion column from the Richmond paper, by M. P. Williams:

In attempting to pick apart a proposed apology for slavery, Del. Frank D. Hargrove Sr., R-Hanover, picked at a 2,000-year-old scab.

Asserting in The Daily Progress of Charlottesville that black Virginians should “get over” slavery, he asked, “Are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?” He salted this wound by later telling an upset Jewish lawmaker that his skin was too thin.

Alan Criswell’s response to Hargrove’s remarks was not for the thin-skinned.

“Oh, that schmuck,” Criswell, who is Jewish, said Wednesday night, shortly after watching a rehearsal of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” at the Weinstein JCC.

Hargrove perpetuated a discredited assertion that inspired the mistreatment of Jews over the centuries.

“That is a horrific lie that is at the root of anti-Semitic propaganda,” Roberta Oster Sachs, who is also Jewish, said at a downtown Richmond restaurant yesterday.

But Criswell was hardly shocked. “Underneath many people, there’s this creeping anti-Semitism that most people don’t let come to the surface.”

Hargrove was addressing a proposal by Del. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico. McEachin also plans to seek an apology for Virginia’s treatment of American Indians as an act of reconciliation leading up to this year’s Jamestown 400th anniversary commemoration.

Black and Jewish Americans, whose historic alliance from the civil-rights era has frayed in recent years, once again were bound by shared injustice and insult.

“Certainly to dredge up the canard of the Jews killing Jesus is appalling,” said Rabbi Gary S. Creditor of Temple Beth-El. “To come at this moment in 2007, saying the Jews killed Christ shows his abysmal ignorance.”

Creditor cited the scholarship and reconciliation efforts between Jews and Christians during the past four decades, including Vatican II, where Pope Paul VI declared in a church document, “What happened in his passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”

The Rev. Dr. Donald Dawe, professor emeritus at Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education and an authority on Jewish-Christian relations, said that relationship should not be defined by events during the first century in Palestine. No whole religion or race should be cursed based on the past.

The Presbyterian Church USA’s position, which Dawe helped shape, is that “the Roman government, through its various officers, including Pontius Pilate . . . were very much involved in [the Crucifixion] and the Jews had no power to do anything without them,” he said.

Back at Weinstein JCC, Criswell was asked how he felt about McEachin’s proposal.

“Apologies are in order,” he said, shrugging off the controversy. Slavery is a stain on America, Criswell said.

Hargrove is “no different than Virgil Goode,” said Merian Stallings of Henrico, referring to the Southside Virginia congressman and his recent anti-Muslim tirade.

Stallings happens to be black. On this evening, the Weinstein JCC, where people swam laps, shot hoops and exercised on treadmills, contained more gentiles than Jews. Whites, blacks and Asians played pingpong on tables arranged in a gymnasium.

Those folks appeared to reside comfortably in 21st-century America. Hargrove, in recycling slurs and dismissing the pain of others, clings to the past by refusing to reconcile it.



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