Monday, June 20, 2016


(This memory of my own was sparked by one of the submissions to my "boyhood memories" project, in which the writer recalled his first, painful brush with anti-Semitism. It reminded me that our prejudices run very deep and are buried, for the most part, at the unconscious level of our brain. The mother (my mother) depicted in the story below was not evil or ill-intentioned toward anyone. She simply accepted what she had always "known." By extension, I found myself reflecting on the racial prejudice that is proving so toxic in our current political campaign.)

It’s bedtime in the nursery. There are two beds, on opposite sides of the room. My sister’s bed is under the window that looks out over the rhododendrons in the Rectory garden. The foot of own my bed rests against the big doll’s house my father built for my sister. When the lights go out, I am always scared that thieves will come in the night, climbing out through the doll’s house window.

The curtains are drawn. We are little children, my sister and I. We love the bedtime stories that our mother reads to us. Our mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. She reads our books to us before we go to sleep. Her favorite is “All Saints for Six O’Clock.” So that’s our favorite, too.

Our mother is the Rector’s wife. Our father is the Rector. He wears a black cassock and a white dog collar. He wears a thin black leather belt and shiny black leather shoes that squeak when he comes upstairs.

Our mother’s story tonight is “Little Saint Hugh.” Little Saint Hugh was a martyr boy, who was stolen by the wicked Jews as he walked the streets alone at night. He was stolen and killed, because it was his blood they wanted. The Jews. They wanted the blood of a little Christian boy. This was the story. Our mother reads it to us before she puts the light out. The story of Little Saint Hugh.

Our mother is the most beautiful woman in the world, and she is the kindest person in the world. We know that she could never hurt anyone, she is so very kind and gentle. She has blue, blue, faraway eyes and lovely hands, and she reads to us at bedtime.

(On hearing my "Little Saint Hugh" story, my friend, who wrote the original, provocative piece that started this exchange, did some research. Here's the update from Wikipedia:
In 1955, the Anglican Church placed a plaque at the site of Little Hugh's former shrine at Lincoln Cathedral, bearing these words: 
"Trumped up stories of 'ritual murders' of Christian boys by Jewish communities were common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and even much later. These fictions cost many innocent Jews their lives. Lincoln had its own legend and the alleged victim was buried in the Cathedral in the year 1255." 
Bishop Percy concludes "the whole charge to be groundless and malicious." Murders of this sort have been imputed to the Jews for seven hundred and fifty years or more; and similar accusations have been made in Russia and other countries of Eastern Europe even in the 19th century and as late as 1883. (Francis James) Child sums up the whole matter by saying, "These pretended child-murders, with their horrible consequences, are only a part of a persecution which, with all its moderation, may be rubricated as the most disgraceful chapter in the history of the human race.”
Thus spake Wikipedia. Sadly, the abominable fiction of blood libel did not stop "as late as 1883." With slanderous books like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion still widely promulgated--especially, it must be said, in the Muslim world--it persists even in our current century.

May we all come to understand that every racial prejudice is as"groundless and malicious" as anti-Semitism.

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