The Time for Golems Is Now
“Kaddish” is a remarkably relevant episode, given that we currently have actual Nazis threatening Jewish community centers all over the United States and also one in the West Wing advising the man in the Oval Office. We’re living at a time when justice for minorities seems less and less likely to come from government agencies and police.
The dialogue in the scene where Mulder and Scully approach the father-in-law of a Hasidic man murdered by Nazis in a grocery store gave me chills this evening:
JACOB WEISS: Where were you when Isaac needed your protection? When we called the police, they said we were paranoid, that there was nothing to worry about. They always say that when someone threatens the Jews.
MULDER: So there was a specific threat of violence?
JACOB WEISS: The threat is always there. Just this morning, this is what I found under our door.
JACOB WEISS: And now you come here not to help us, but to ask our help so you can impose justice to the only man who has taken justice into his own hands.
MULDER: We would be happy not to disturb the grave site if you can tell us who that man is.
The authorities as represented here are not interested in justice, but investigating the killings of those who perpetrated a hate-crime against a member of a minority group. Minorities and the systematically marginalized are regularly told that they are imagining things or just being paranoid. It takes someone actually getting injured or killed for the authorities to respond, and then their response is typically nominal, at best. Once out of the hands of the police, courts treat minorities no better.
Since the inauguration, we have seen moves to systematically dismantle and remove civil rights protections for minorities and instead allow those with power to cast themselves as the objects of discrimination.
This conversation between Mulder and Scully after they leave Jacob Weiss and his daughter reflects the sort of false equivalency that we have heard and read in the news every day since November 9, 2016.
MULDER: …but it’s hard to fault his attitude when you see something like that. (He hands it to Scully.) Anybody delivering justice to a people who have known that kind of persecution and hatred, why wouldn’t they protect him?
SCULLY: Justice or revenge?
MULDER: I’m not saying those kids don’t deserve full prosecution under the law, but the hate mongering goes both ways.
SCULLY: Yes, but the right to free expression doesn’t extend to murder.
This sort of false equivalency should enrage us, but often, particularly if it doesn’t directly affect us, we let it go as being just words. Words, however, have power. Symbolic violence is still violence. People against whom violence is perpetrated should not be expected to defend or come to the aid of their attackers. It is an example of further violence to expect them to do so.
Mulder finally comes around to understanding the forces that animated the golem and motivated it to enact justice against the Nazis who murdered Isaac for no reason other than the fact of his existence:
SCULLY: Mud! (She follows him.) Mulder, what are you talking about? And… for what purpose? Exacting revenge?
MULDER: I don’t think it was hate that created this, Scully. I think it was love.
We all need to channel our love and pain into righteous rage and keep pouring it into our various golems, which take the form of protests, lawsuits against illegal and unconstitutional actions on the part of law enforcement and members of the executive, and other similar actions. It might also take the form of clay men who will strike out into the world and seek justice for us, but that seems like a lot more work than supporting the effective modes of action that we currently see taking shape all around us.