Sunday, June 11, 2006

Martin Marty and the West Side's Jews

Marty writes an odd column over at Christian Century. He describes the Jewish cemeteries along Des Plaines Ave and relates a common Saturday experience for anyone who knows the neighborhood,

On Sunday drives some 40 years ago, our family would travel up and down Des Plaines Avenue, which cut through Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois. It often took quite a while because of the traffic. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the people buried there remembered the sites and the people they honored. Jews are known for their respect for the dead and have stipulated rituals for showing it.
Then, of all things he takes a shot a extravagant funeral monuments,

The monument you cannot help noticing even at 35 mph is Egyptian-styled and marked "In Memoriam to Ida Balaban Katz," part of a famed theater-owning clan.
This leads him into lecture on a fad for mausoleums and finally charge on the ruins of Babylon

Now U.S. helicopters pulverize the fragile ruins and marines leave graffiti. "Hi, Vanessa. I love you." Vanessa's name we know. The people who honored themselves with their monuments to themselves are forgotten. Nothing lasts.
I've driven that stretch of Des Plaines ave over the years too. I know it well. Many of my family are buried near by in German Waldheim (renamed Forest Home in 1917).

The association is much different for me. When I see the Yiddish words at the spot for Workmen's Circle I see the memorial to a Jewish World eradicated in Europe. Its remains can only be found now in a handful of places in America.

The link with Iraq is not the ruins of Babylon but the mass graves of found in Shia News. A connection Shia easily understood too
...we, more than anybody can fully grasp the agony of the holocaust. We have had a first hand experience with the very same horrors. Freshly dug mass graves bare witness to the plight of the Shias. They have been subjected to a systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder.
Marty ends with Psalm 103: "But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him."I know little of the Lord's love but I know History judges and Marty best look back at the words of his predecessors at Christian Century; written when Hitler had gotten well onto beginning the holocaust. From Josoph Loconte writing in Orthodoxy Today,
The Christian Century magazine, the nation's leading religious journal, devoted itself to opposing U.S. intervention. Writing as late as November 1941, editor Charles Clayton Morrison denounced an Anglo-American alliance as "the most ambitious imperialism ever projected." He then offered this dark prediction: "For the United States to make a fateful decision to enter this war on the mistaken and irrational assumption that it is a war for the preservation of anything good in civilization will be the supreme tragedy of our history."
The Unitarian Universalist Association's Clyde Grubbs took me to task on another post,
Playing the World War Two tape over and over and over again does not make for a interesting critique.
He's right. It does play over and over. Every time I pass those cemeteries in Forest Park. Everytime we find genocide happening again in Bosnia, Sudan, or Iraq. As we unearth another mass grave and some religious step forward again-and-again and make excuses for not intervening to stop barbarism. Then 1940 keeps repeating in my head with images of the supreme tragedy.

Marty condemns a memorial as poor taste. Instead I give thanks for a country were a guy can make a buck, die in freedom, and build a memorial. I just wish I didn't have to play the tape over and over again.

No comments: