Stitching the World Back Together

Stitching the World Back Together

The hate keeps coming. On front, Avram Rosenthal, 5, and his brother Emanuel, 2, of the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania. Both were later murdered at the death camp at Majdanek. Photo from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

 
The hate keeps coming. This weekend saw an alt-right conference - featuring Nazi salutes, "America and Jewish Consciousness" lectures, and talk of brown-skinned people "of inferior stock" - organized by Richard Spencer, head of nationalist think-tank National Policy Institute; Spencer has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis.” They are more plentiful and invigorated than ever: The Center just released a Hate Map documenting the 892 hate groups currently in these fine United States, and the racist fringe is now celebrating their newly promising path to power and "psychic connection" with the Orange Vulgarian-elect with his appointment of Breitbart's resident Nazi Stephen Bannon.
 
Still, many are fighting back. There are powerful calls to respect, understand and seek alliance with the pain of working class whites who helped elect Trump. Some have offered to wear the Muslim yellow crescent in solidarity with fearful Muslims. Many Jews, along with others, are vowing to register as Muslims if a registry actually comes to pass, arguing that for Jews with memories of the Holocaust, "Never Again" has become "Never Is Now." Some women have confronted the surreal registry threat with a proposed National White Man Registry "until we figure out whats going on" with the straight white men whose numerous rapes, domestic assaults and mass shootings in fact represent "our most immediate threat to national security." Above all, many are calling for us to face the real and perhaps unprecedented threats to what we want our country to be - never mind talk of nuance, grey areas, giving the monster "a chance" - and fighting against them. "Take the haters at their word," writes Liel Leibovitz in The Tablet, urging us to see the evil around us. "Refuse to accept what’s going on as the new normal. Not now, not ever."
"This isn’t a political contest - it’s a moral crisis. When an inexperienced, thin-skinned demagogue rides into office by explaining away immensely complex problems while arguing that our national glory demands we strip millions of their dignity or their rights, our only duty is to resist by whatever means permitted us by law....The only thing that matters now is the simple moral truth: This isn’t right...When the levers of power are seized by the small hands of hateful men, you work hard, you stand with those who are most vulnerable, and you don’t give up until it’s morning again. The rest is commentary."

Holding the Light

Gather up whatever is
glittering in the gutter,
whatever has tumbled
in the waves or fallen
in flames out of the sky,

for it’s not only our
hearts that are broken,
but the heart
of the world as well.
Stitch it back together.

Make a place where
the day speaks to the night
and the earth speaks to the sky.
Whether we created God
or God created us

it all comes down to this:
In our imperfect world
we are meant to repair
and stitch together
what beauty there is, stitch it

with compassion and wire.
See how everything
we have made gathers
the light inside itself
and overflows? A blessing.

Stuart Kestenbaum
from Only Now (Deerbrook Editions)

Japanese Americans en route to the camps. Photo by Ping News.

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