Do you ever feel like you’re living in history? Because you are.
At the moment.
For too many, history is distant and abstract. It’s the scribblings in dog-eared school books. A dialogue from a film or something said during a tour on vacation.
For too many, history is events that one may remember but never actually experience. It’s just a few words on a page, like this.
The great American writer James Baldwin knew what history was. He experienced it and tried to capture it in his books and essays. “History,” said Baldwin, “is not the past. We carry our history with us.
“We are our story.”
Now people are busy. They struggle to get across town to get to work on time, take a kid to hockey practice, pay the electric bill, or get a few hours of sleep. You don’t have time to think about the story. You only have time for the moment – now.
But history doesn’t wait for us. It happens all the time. Right now right now.
Right now sociopaths are marching through the city streets almost everywhere condemning the victims of Hamas, not Hamas. Right now, in places we thought were places of higher learning, our children are being taught that barbarism is acceptable and even justifiable. Right now, elected people in our parliaments are publishing reasons for murders.
Right now, Jewish businesses—places that employ ordinary people doing everyday things and trying to make ends meet—are under attack by roaring, menacing monsters. At the moment.
For example in Café Landwer. Here, in this bright and sunny Toronto restaurant, history happens.
The founders of Café Landwer know their history. They represented it correctly on their website.
They wrote: “In 1919, Moshe Landwer opened a small and romantic coffee house on a picturesque street in the center of Berlin, which quickly became one of the city’s most popular meeting places. In 1933, when the Nazi regime came to power, Moshe Landwer and his family made aliyah [immigrates] and settles in Tel Aviv.”
What was not mentioned was what happened to Jewish businesses in Berlin shortly after Landwer left Germany: Kristallnacht. It was called “Kristallnacht” to describe the shards of glass that littered the streets. Nazi thugs had broken windows of Jewish shops.
They terrorize. They demonize.
And now, more than a century later, the cafe founded by Moshe Landwer is being targeted again, and in the most unlikely of places. Not in Nazi Germany – in Canada. Now here.
At the weekend, gangs of thugs attacked Café Landwer. Yelling at the guests. Shout “Boycott!” In mad, spitting rage. Are you targeting a restaurant?
Because I’m Jewish.
My colleague Brian Lilley went to Café Landwer on Tuesday to show his support. Actively counter hate and not just talk about it. To be seen. Others did the same.
That’s what James Baldwin meant when he said that history is now – and that we all carry history with us now.
He meant that we are all constantly being seen and judged. History is watching us.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters are being attacked and defamed here in our home. At the moment. Not in the past. Now.
What if we do nothing?
This will be remembered by all of us and will never be erased.