I got one sentence into Lamentations before the tears started.
It’s Tisha B’av again. It tends to come around, doesn’t it? It may be fifth March in the secular calendar, but it’s Tisha B’av again, so I’m reading Lamentations.
I was particularly struck, this time, by the writer’s sense of what I will call national exceptionalism. The writer feels that Jerusalem—Yerushalayim shel Zahav, Jerusalem the Golden—has rightly been the envy of the nations. He is writing from a sense that this is as it should be, as he expected it to always be. And now the mighty have fallen. And what makes the fall so much worse is not just the memories of the pleasant things that she had in the days of old (1:7), but the mockery of the rest of the world that is supposed to be envious. “Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?” (2:15). He describes the nations mocking Jerusalem in song (3:63).
Digression: that last verse is amazing. The KJV translates it as I am their musick. The Hebrew is anee man’gee’natam; the root is the same as the word niggun. And it’s a hapax legomenon, only appearing once, so we can’t dig around in the other uses to get at connotations. Still. To be the music of our enemies—to be the actual melody of their song of triumph. That’s some boss-level imagery there. End Digression.
The New York Times had a video the other day that was about non-American’s reactions to be told how we here handling the pandemic here in the US. I didn’t watch it, and I can’t seem to find it now with a very brief look. In point of fact, I don’t want to watch it. I don’t want to listen to my country becoming the music of a mocking world. But… we are.
It’s perhaps the natural outcome of an American Century—how did we think it would end? I can’t even remember, honestly. Probably we just didn’t think it would end at all. But here we are, in the year 5780. How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth? We are their music, now. I can’t say we don’t deserve it.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,