I haven’t written about trip yet to the Jewish quarter of Rome. It’s only been a couple of days, but it’s been hard to write about for a number of reasons, and with the suicide-by-cop of a white supremacist in Austin this morning I feel more than a bit guilty about not writing yet.
We are reading Calvino’s Invisible Cities while we are here, and I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how cities institutionalize memory, a topic near and dear to Calvino’s heart. A recent phenomenon in the city struck me pretty hard when we were there, and I saw another reminder of it today: these replacements for cobblestones…
They don’t say much, just date of birth, date of deportation, and date of assassination. The location of the place where these folks died, though, is what is most striking – Auschwitz. These markers are located in front of houses where Jews were taken away by the Nazis, over Mussolini’s protests I’m sure (not). They are an intentional act of memory by citizens of Rome, and while I’m not sure of the religious identity of all of them, I am guessing that most of the cobblestone-replacers are Jewish.
This feels like the place in this post to solemnly remind some audience, one that will gently shake its heads at its own righteousness, of the evil of Nazism. It is, of course. It’s also the place to remark upon the disconcerting tendency humans have to do very nasty things to each other. I hope, however, that what it also does is trigger hope, the sort of hope that we can figure out our differences and, in Rodney King’s words, just get along.