Social media is exploding with videos of seemingly random people demonstrating the worst of America. A few weeks ago, it was a tech CEO directing his hate towards an Asian family in a California restaurant for example. He was canceled as they say and forced to resign from his own company. Lately, it’s the anti-mask folks – causing scenes in stores and restaurants – and being caught on video doing so. The posters often say, “Twitter, do your thing.” And by now, we know what that thing is – publicly name and shame the offender.
We’ve seen a widespread movement in recent years to remove the confederate flag and monuments to confederate leaders and those who were proponents of slavery. Right here in Minneapolis, we have witnessed the renaming of Lake Calhoun for example. And after the murder of George Floyd, we witnessed dozens of statues across the country being torn down – including one of Christopher Columbus at the Minnesota State Capital.
But there is something else going on and very few people want to talk about it. When they do talk about it, it quickly disappears from the news cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’m talking about celebrities and athletes and a pattern of anti-Semitic language that goes mostly unchecked. I’ll be honest – I’m pissed off. And I hope you are too.
Mel Gibson continues to find work as an actor and director, and his history of Anti-Semitic language (and racism, sexism, and homophobia) is well documented.
In June of this year, rapper/actor Ice Cube posted a series of anti-Semitic tweets that filled the feeds of his 5.4 million followers. He continues to defend himself and to post more. Ice Cube is still in business and will inevitably appear on the Grammys or he’ll host SNL or maybe he’ll get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Oh…nevermind; he already has one.
Last month, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted a quote he (incorrectly) attributed to Hitler and went on a rant about Jewish world domination. The Eagles, who have a Jewish owner, issued a statement but no punishment. DeSean Jackson is still on the team. Former NBA player Stephen Jackson (no relation) who weeks earlier was hailed as a voice of reason after George Floyd’s murder, backed those statements by DeSean Jackson. Former NFL player, Larry Johnson, has been tweeting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories as well. These are just three examples of what seems like a larger problem in professional sports. And no one wants to talk about it.
And then earlier this month week, Oakland A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson clearly threw up a Sieg Heil not once, but twice, in the dugout during a game. His apology was deemed sufficient. In it, he said he “blacked out” and didn’t realize it was offensive. Christenson did not face any consequences. I’ll tell you this – he’s lucky the A’s won’t be playing in Yankee Stadium this year.
There is one person who has used his platform to call out Hollywood and the world of sports – none other than NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his July 14 Hollywood Reporter column he asks, “Where is the outrage over Anti-Semitism in sports and in Hollywood?”
Thank G-d for Kareem, who has always been one of the most intelligent and compassionate voices in sports. But guess what happened? Ice Cube fired back at Kareem with more anti-Semitism and the column quickly faded away.
The thing is that Ice Cube won’t be getting any statues or schools named after him. There is someone, though, who already has all kinds of things with his name on it, someone who is one the worst American anti-Semites of the 20th century. His name is Charles Lindbergh.
Charles Lindbergh is best known for being the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. That was 1927 and for many years afterward, Lindbergh was a bona fide American hero. Along with Babe Ruth, he might have been the most famous man in America after taking that historic flight. Some argue that our fascination with celebrity began with Charles Lindbergh. The Christopher Columbus statue was torn down at the Minnesota State Capital in St. Paul, but the one of Lindbergh still stands. In Hopkins/Minnetonka, the Lindbergh Community Center sits on Lindbergh Drive – and is in earshot of the Adath Jeshurun synagogue. With my third kid at Gan Shelanu, I have driven on that road and past that building hundreds of times.
There’s only one problem: Lindbergh deserves none of it. Lindbergh became fascinated with Germany and German innovation. He took several trips to Germany in the 1930s and was awarded the Service Cross of the German Eagle by Hermann Goering in 1938. He refused to apologize for that medal or for befriending those who gave it to him. He became one of the most vocal and certainly the most prominent opponent of American involvement in the conflict – even though by then, the Holocaust was already underway. He spent much of his time giving speeches both in person and on the radio arguing for American isolationism. He called out Jewish-run newspapers, Jews themselves, the British, and the Roosevelt administration for pushing the United States into a war with Germany. Lindbergh had a penchant for eugenics and made several statements about the importance of the white race and European blood. By most accounts, Lindbergh was spewing the same ideals as Nazi Germany.
So I’m pissed off and I want to do something about it. There is no place for monuments to such a despicable man – and a man who unlike Columbus, walked this Earth just several decades ago. We know too much about him. We have his own words documented in print, on film, and on tape. If anyone deserves to be canceled, it’s Minnesota’s own, Charles A. Lindbergh.
Call me crazy, but I’m going to cancel Lindbergh in our own backyard. Who’s with me?
Lindbergh deserves none of it? Really? So, because he was antisemitic he deserves no credit for his accomplishments? I suppose Henry Ford doesn’t either? Do you get annoyed when a car made by Ford is parked in your community? You are basically hopping onboard with cancel culture saying, “If they are cancelling, I want to cancel too!” Keep going. There’s no end in sight with cancelling things. Soon enough, no monuments will stand.
I think cancel culture isn’t worth joining. I think removing monuments in an attempt to make things more palatable is like children playing hide-and-go-seek and thinking that when their eyes are covered no one can see them.
For was a disgusting anti-Semite, also, but few people seem to know that, either.
Personally, I think we should keep all of the monuments because they remind us of our history, and while to some, some might honor people who said and did disgusting things in addition to achievements, it’s also a reminder that these things happened so they are not forgotten. If a culture can’t look at a spotted past and learn and grow to the point a reminder of the past is a marker for current growth and not going backwards, then the growth doesn’t go deep enough.
Right now in America we’re seeing ugliness that was there before, but people have teased it out, blown it up, and turned it into a destructive force instead of a constructive vehicle for more brotherly love among Americans. I’m seeing people “fighting racism” with more racism, like the white man dragged out of his truck by a mob and beaten unconscious, or the little girl shot by her neighbor.
I think cancel culture is an immature way to say, I’m unhappy with this and I am unable to consider anything other than how and what I feel RIGHT NOW which is what children do before learning to think of others.
Monuments are reminders of the past that we need to either learn from, or repeat. Sure, feel angry about ignorance and hate, but do something constructive to make it better rather than trying to hide it from sight. If not me, then who? If not now, then when?
I think Jewish culture and life is too rich and full of knowledge and intelligence to join cancel culture which is already revealing its weaknesses and lack of productivity. Just my opinion.
I think modern anti-Semitism is absolutely stupid. I know why so may Arabs do it, but the rest of the world…it’s based on western preconceptions and misconceptions about Jews and Israel, and total ignorance of the Middle Eastern mindset. I say start with voting. Vote out people who haven’t demonstrated with action a clear support of Jews and Israel. It’s a positive action, and doesn’t involve canceling something. Ilhan Omar, for example…sure she go re-elected and immediately made thinly veiled anti-Semitic remarks talking about people throwing money to her opponent to get him in office. Forget her trip to Israel was organized by a terrorist organization… We need to form a consistent message – be a friend to Jews and Israel, or get no support from Jewish donors. As a minority it might not be a huge splash, but it sends a message, and at least it’s a good kind of pro-active. Am Yisrael chai.
A smart reply and using good additional examples (Ford) to make your point.
I am saddened to learn about Lindbergh’s comments and actions.
With as many issues as face our nation, the replacement costs of these monuments and maybe most importantly, they are not a source idolatry nor active part of citizens lives. Like run down buildings and junk yards, they are present but overlooked and not paid much attention to.
In time, I suspect some or many monuments will be erected and replaced with personalities chosen by and paid for by citizens of the 21st century.
Cars driving around are not monuments. They aren’t memorializing Henry Ford. If there was a statue of Henry Ford in my city, I would want it gone too.
What I’m actually saying is that more modern anti-Jewish hate is not part of the current story. And that those who hate Jews get more of a pass.
And that needs to change. And it will.
I’m accepting replacement name ideas. Let me know if you have any good ideas. Happy to consider.
plus ford pkwy in Highland Park. It does seem that anti-semitic behavior is accepted. “Look at their other accomplishments” they say. Pretty much only said about anti-semitic behavior.
Wonderful article. Excellent point. We need to stand up for ourselves
Sign me up! I’m with you! That comment about Ford? Such “what aboutism.” I can’t understand those who defend pro-Nazi Americans.
@Robert Receiving credit for his accomplishments and forcing Jewish students to report to a gymnasium that adorns the name of a notorious anti-semite who was chummy with Hitler and the Nazi party are two very different things.
Does Limbergh’s aviation accomplishments belong in an aviation museum or a museum dedicated to important Minnesota history? Sure, those are both logical venues that individuals choose to attend. But it is disingenuous toward informing people who he really was if his publically held Anti-Semitic beliefs were conveniently omitted when talking about him out of fear of smearing his reputation as an aviation pioneer, just as it would be disingenuous to do so of Henry Ford for the same.
Saying someone is truly repugnant in their politics and interactions with their fellow community members doesn’t negate that they can also be innovative or successful in their professional life. It also does not mean that they deserve to be celebrated by a community that has been directly and adversely impacted by their actions.
Yes, Lindbergh made strides with aviation, but he was still an overt anti-semite, and that should not be glossed over or seen as something to be celebrated.
Monuments at their core are a visual communal celebration of attributes and accomplishments we want to honor with the hopes of providing inspiration to the generations to come. While Lindbergh’s aviation accomplishments were groundbreaking, his attitude toward minorities is archaic, abhorrent and has no place in an educational setting where children are required to attend and are expected to feel safe.
We wouldn’t tolerate this if it was a teacher espousing this type of anti-Semitic rhetoric, so in what twilight zone reality does it make sense that we should have a monument on school grounds that invalidates a setting of acceptance and safety and that might as well be one giant “thumb’s up to hate”.
As one of many past alum of the school who was forced to walk past this monument day in and day out knowing fully well Libergh’s background and that this man would have preferred to see me and my Jewish classmates dead than participating in a structure with his name adorned on it, I 100% believe this re-naming is long overdue, and I greatly applaud the move to do so.
Jeff had asked for suggestions for individuals for consideration toward renaming, here are a handful of suggestions:
1. Judge L. Howard Bennett-He helped set up the Council on Human Relations during Hubert H. Humphrey’s time as mayor of Minneapolis, directed the local branch of the NAACP and the Minneapolis Urban League, and was the first black judge in Minnesota (appointed to the municipal bench in 1957). He was also the first black member of the Minneapolis School Board (elected in 1963), going on to serve as a civil rights expert in the U.S. Defense Department under President Kennedy.
2. Clarence “Cap” Wigington- The first black municipal architect in St. Paul Minnesota’s first registered African-American architect, and founder of the Home Guards of Minnesota, an all-black militia established during WWI when racial segregation prohibited him from being in the Minnesota National Guard.
3. Neil Gaiman – Minnesota-based Prolific author. Creator of thought-provoking and imaginative content like the award winning “Sandman” graphic novel series and “American Gods” (which was rooted in Minnesota).
4. Terry Gilliam – Minnesota Born film director, screenwriter, animator, actor, comedian and former member of the Monty Python comedy troupe.
5. Joel & Ethan Coen – Minnesota Born filmmakers who often used Minnesota as the backdrop for their films including “Fargo,” and “A serious Man”. They grew up close to Hopkins, and have won multiple Oscars for their films.
6. Ann Bancroft- Born in MN, taught Physical Education and Special Education in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, founded the Ann Bancroft Foundation in 1991. The Ann Bancroft foundation supports the Wilderness Inquiry group and Bancroft currently teaches at Wilderness Inquiry. The Wilderness Inquiry group allows individuals and families to go on outdoor adventures, and the adventures are open to people of all ability levels. Was the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot and by sled. Named one of history’s greatest polar explorers in 2011.
7. Bob Dylan-Noted Musician
8. Sinclaire Lewis- Noted Author
Just for fun options, but all much much better options than a monument to a nazi:
9. MacGuyver (fictional character born in Minnesota)
10. Paul Bunyan (American Folklore character and larger than life unofficial Minnesota Mascot)
11. Bullwinkle the Moose and Rocky the Flying Squirrel (famous fictional cartoons that come from Minnesota, a big educational component to their show that history and fairy tales)
Thanks for the name suggestions!!! Some really good ones in there.
Apparently, the renaming has already been a topic of discussion in Hopkins/Minnetonka. I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything further.