Happy 56th

“Give us an ‘I’
Give us an ‘S’
Give us an ‘R’
Give us an ‘A’
Give us an ‘E’
Give us an ‘L’
What’s that spell?”

Um. Don’t tell me. I know this one.

This lusty cheer was given today in Montreal by 6 high schoolers, their contribution to the city’s celebration of Israel’s independence.

The kids delivered it from the steps of a bronze statue of Edward VII. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

According to Downtown Montreal: An opinionated guide to the City’s squares, churches and underground city, the monument shows,

“four allegorical figures [:] Peace, Four Nations, Abundance, and Liberty. Peace is the woman at the front holding the olive branch, but if you look carefully there is a sword hidden in the folds of her skirt, just in caseĀ—a reminder that force is sometimes necessary if you want to keep the peace.”

I went to the celebration for the same reason, I think, that most of us were there: to meet women. But this year, with the firebombing, about 4 weeks ago, of a Jewish religious school in Montreal, the occasion took on a special urgency. Anti-semitism is on the rise in Canada, as it is, perhaps, everywhere. What a virulent beast this is. It must be refused over and over and over again.

All culture has need of recitation. As Edward Sapir put it,

While we often speak of society as though it were a static structure defined by tradition, it is, in the more intimate sense, nothing of the kind, but a highly intricate network of partial or complete understandings between the members of organizational units of every degree of size and complexity, ranging from a pair of lovers or a family to a league of nations or that ever increasing portion of humanity which can be reached by the press through all its transnational ramifications. It is only apparently a static sum of social institutions; actually it is being reanimated or creatively reaffirmed from day to day by particular acts of a communicative nature which obtain among individuals participating in it.

[Sapir, Edward. 1931. Communication. Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Vol. 4, pp. 78-81.]

But some things need reanimating and reaffirming more often than others, apparently: our loathing for anti-semitism in particular.

For the full essay by Sapir.

For the full treatment of the statue of Edward VII.

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