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 Jews did rarely have an opportunity to confront our executioners; and when we did, they

hung their heads and claimed to have done nothing, or to have been only following orders

 
 

 Books by G. David Schwartz

 

A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue / Midrash and Working Out of the Book

 

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Our Shared and Incomparable Sorrow

The Holocaust, Slavery and Future Relations

Between  the African-American  and Jewish Community

By G. David Schwartz

 

for my dear friend Rev. Jacquelyn E. Winston

I.

There is a deep and abiding link between the question: Why did God not intervene? and the question: Why do ‘you people’ talk about your problems so frequently? The connection is our the common search for perspective.

These are questions we should attempt to answer because, as Proverb says: Where there is no vision, communities perish (Pr 29:18). 

Why do Jews remember, and speak about, the Holocaust so often?  Do we remember the Holocaust as a means of maintaining our Jewishness?  Hopefully not, for doing so does not necessarily mean we live our Jewishness only that we are remembering trauma.  Judaism is a way of life, and life suggests some kind of divine presence and denotes celebration. 

We remember the Holocaust because we believe the conditions which made for the Holocaust are yet smoldering in societies around the world.  We remember the Holocaust to be aware of every vestigial deed, each apparently random thought which might yet contribute to an acceptance of genocide.  Ideally, we remember the Holocaust because our tradition tells us to pursue justice. 

We remember not because our heritage has told us we will be despised among the nations, but because we have an obligation to act in just and righteous ways. We remember, then, because we cannot forget how profoundly far we have yet to go. 

Yet memories are notoriously emotive.  Emotive issues are notoriously obscured in practice.  But what is also obscured is the fact that however we approach our corporate, our social, and our political persona, the Holocaust is not spoken, perhaps cannot be spoken, in ultimate terms. There is no divine imperative in the fact of genocide although Emil Fackenheim has done the Jewish community a service by placing the Holocaust in a somewhat more palpable form. 

Fackenheim hears a commanding voice over and above Auschwitz, a 614th commandment, which says we are “forbidden to hand Hitler another, posthumous victory.”

We need to hear more.  

Unlike Torah, which was voluntarily accepted, and is voluntarily accepted even today, the Holocaust was something inflicted upon Jews.

So we Jews prefer to speak of the events which we were subjected not as “holocaust,” which is the Greek word denoting a sacrifice, but as “Shoah,” which is Hebrew for a catastrophe.  The perpetuators did not “sacrifice” Jews, and did certainly not believe in a moral principle of the universe.  They murdered Jews, as well as undesirable others, when they are perceived as different and, consequently, inferior.    

Jews did rarely have an opportunity to confront our executioners; and when we did, they hung their heads and claimed to have done nothing, or to have been only following orders.  When one group claims either that nothing or very little happened, the traumatized group claims that what happened was everything and is reflected everywhere.  

Nor is it the case that another source of experience or anguish can be denied.  Even the “imagination” of suffering, or identification with the possibility of suffering, is to experience pain on some level. However, when the White Aryan Resistance is distributing literature which advocates constructing crematorium in the Midwest, we are well beyond symbolism.

We will not give anyone the opportunity to so physically mistreat us against.  We will not give them the chance, in the West at least, not because we are brighter than we were in the 30s, and not because we are more moral than we were in the 30s, but because we are unwilling to think an even vaguely offensive remark in an oblique text cannot lead to mass murder.  It can.  It did.  And so, along with the allies we make around the world, and the armies we either lobby for or compose, we Jews have been developing for the last fifty or so years not the chutzpah – we have always had the nerve to speak our mind – but the sheer sorrow and anguish at the condition of the world to say: never again. 

Sheer sorrow and anguish because our families have been decimated, our parents annihilated, our cousins cremated has made us accept the historical chutzpah of the Jewish people with a vengeance.     

Because we could not confront our destroyers, and because there are those who would yet destroy us, we will shout to them even if we have to shout through the otherwise innocent person we are standing next to. 

From our initial historical refusal to confront the issue, to confront what we thought of as our shame, to our current disinterest in letting the issue broaden; contemporary Jewish life is largely the life of a traumatized people.  Chutzpah is a defense mechanism which too easily generates into sheer arrogance. 

Until that charmed time when defense mechanisms are no longer a necessity of human behavior, the Jewish continual assertion of “what they did to us,” and “what they would yet do to us if they were allowed the chance” cannot be removed and need not be excused.

II.  

But we are simply foolish if we hear about the trauma of another as if it negates our own   distress.  Unfortunately, history is too often the record of mutually compatible anguish. 

The longing for comparison for the sake of contrasting our right, our very life, to another is the craving for abstraction.  It is a denial of the living individual and denial, too frequently more than metaphorically, is annihilation. 

When we compare our anguish with another, we not only treat their anguish but our own in an objective manner.  We erroneously think we can quantify misery, assert statistics as if metaphors, analyze the wrong and the innocence.   

Shoah, like the residual effects of slavery, like present day anti-Semitism and racism, reflect one another.  Individuals who experience the physical, and therefore deeply emotional wound, too often abstract and refract one another.  But where we do not have the terms with which we can think and act in the context of the totality of life, our best efforts are fragmented if not illusory.   

Just as one of the steps along the way to mass murder was enslavement after terrorized confinement, so the logical conclusion of slavery was destruction.

What the trauma, which has been historically passed on to each community, allows to exist is the  knowledge that certain behaviors even today portend abduction, confinement, forced labor, abuse, and destruction.  What the Jew who rails about anti-semitism, or the African-American who decries racism objects to is the most seemingly negligible hint that he or she, are, in their daily activities, threatened. 

Jews are threatened not only when there is a luger at their head, but when the word “Jew” is uttered with a contemptible sneer.  The very tone of dismissal is a form of denial, an annihilation.  

Similarly, it is not slavery per se which is an immediate threat, but dismissal and confinement to images denoting separation, unconcern and abandonment.  The traumatized quest for mutually incompatible superiorities imply annihilation of a living, breathing individual.  To be spurned is to be disposed;   to be treated as if one is trash is to be lynched. 

 A Jew who hears revisionist theory hears that the detainment, confiscation of personal effects, deportation, terror, abuse, and death was not all that bad!  Similarly, contemporary society’s methodological inability or unwillingness to perceive much less hear human beings and the consequential diminishment of large sections of our cities, our environment, is not simply ignorance, but an assertion that racism are not all that bad! 

Contemporary threats are real!  They are as real as police brutality and as real as systematic unconcern.  They are as real as our inability to seek out and promote a talented Black child because we are too busy funding the arts.  Art without concern is racism. 

Contemporary threats are real: as real as the disdain at the ethnicity of some owners of the means of production, as real as the fundamental insults nestled in the compliment about Jewish genius, or the sympathetic look when it is learned that our children do not believe in Santa Claus. 

The abduction, slavery, derogation, and miserable treatment of the Black community up to and including murder proceeded according to a different plan, a different method and different concern than there location, forced labor, derogation, and annihilation of Jews.  Clearly they were different phenomena.  Nevertheless, slavery stands in a relationship with Shoah over and against, for example, the Gulf War as two instances where the United States can claim neither a cowboy’s victory nor even a moral victory.  

Not only can we not say, as we tend to do when beating up our weak “public relations enemies” from Granada to the present, that we “kicked butt” or we did it for “security reasons to protect our people.”  We should rather say, when viewing slavery or Shoah: we did too little, too late.  We erred.  We behaved immorally.  We need forgiveness. Even if we are innocent of wrongdoing, denial of the need of repentance makes us accomplices and guilty.  

Many, in the late twentieth century do not only not believe in history;  they do not believe in error.

It’s in the past.  What does it matter? 

There are people alive and with us who remember the signs which read: “Jews forbidden.” There are people alive and with us who remember the signs: “Whites Only.”  There are people among us who were shuffled from packed train cars to lines where their death was determined by superficial inspection, and their life was determined by sub-human subsistence, who were overnight transformation from contributing members of society to slaves of the Reich.  There are people among us who were transformed from free people into chattel.  For what crime?  For the crime of being different. 

For the crime of being different, we have a shared, yet distinct history of degradation, abuse and murder. It is not a past history which we can comfortably afford to read about in history books, but a continuing history whose effects we live.  It lives not only in the descendants of the immediate victims, but even more in the assiduous silence of the structures of society which did not help, did not mourn, did not labor to ennoble but continued to account itself a host society.  

The trauma of the other offers an opportunity for a moral imperative to pursue a perspective of renewal.  We too often regard the other under an imperial immorality without spiritual resonance.  We have the opportunity to ennoble both ourselves and the other.  We too often cheapen ourselves. 

For the crime of being different, we have the lingering, residual effects of hatred smoldering in our flesh, in our vision, in our cities.  We can only counter the racism and anti-semitism which we feel, we experience, we see, when we respect the flesh, the perspective, the dwelling of the other as well as ourselves.  The only way to respect the embodiment of human beings in all their glorious difference is to demand first the necessary accommodations of the flesh: not only housing but suitable housing; not only food, but nourishing food; not only mandated education, but the availability of all the means and accruements of enhancing and developing culture. 

Communities speak of the continuing effects and inveterate images of the plight they have suffered not because they desire to exploit their status as victims but because they desire to fully and completely transcend their victimization.  The identification of the American Jew with the events inflicted on Jews in Nazi occupied Germany, or the contemporary Black person with events inflicted upon Black people in the last decade each carry an identification of consequences to our health and well-being. 

Complaints and criticisms are a means of expressing their status as survivors, for both the Jewish and the African-American communities are. And both communities have a grand human desire to join, contribute to, and modify in humane directions, the history which lies on the other side of survival: genuine human advancement.  The question we have been pursuing to this point is how appropriate it is to speak of genuine advancement and spiritual development when systematic and perpetual disintegration of integrity undermines basic life support systems. 

III.

Jews and Blacks have a shared yet incomparable heritage not because west and in a privileged relationship with one another, but because all of human life is in a symbiotic relationship.  Whether in terms of personal relationships or geopolitical affairs, certain general rules of human behavior have to be obeyed, or the consequences expected.  With few exceptions, the truth is that if we jostle, we are jostled; if we jest, we are jested with; if we are passive, we are passed. 

But if we are just and pursue righteousness, we by and large create within our “opponent” a righteous and just response wherein deep speaks to deep instead of surface moaning is found calling to the superficial.  When this occurs, so-called opponents are transformed not into enemies but people who support us through constructive criticism. And the only way around the same-old-same-old is if we are consistent in our care and respect of others.  Then, and only then, we will garner respect and care.

So, we need to built trust.  And the only way we can build trust is to build the infrastructures which support trust.  We need to support the human relationships which design the superstructures through which we will affect the development of new, dauntless infrastructures which protect human beings.  We need to revise the basic facilities, services, and installations so that they function to satisfy human needs and practice the words of Ursula LeGuin when she says:  The generous heart is wealth itself. 

We require the basic processes which will allow this to be done, process which have begun in the traditions we have inherited, and are expressed now dimly and now clearly in the voice we are allowed.  We need more public forums for favorable discussion.   

We easily believe the most innocent thoughts and words are potent and destructive when uttered against us. We need to believe that words and thoughts matter and can succeed at improving society.  We need to built relationships celebrating the later as easily as we sever relationships based on the former. 

Our public forums for favorable discussion will begin with and develop beyond distrust if and when the participants courageously risk becoming mutually supportive individuals with voices to be carried back into our homes, back into our neighborhoods.  Not political correctness but the correct politics of individual responsibility will allow both ourselves and those we might influence to become rational, creative citizens. Actually, most of us are responsible.  We need only see our responsiveness reflected in some medium carrying the message of the possibility that events can and will occur the way we would vote if quality of life issues came to the ballot.   

Michael Eric Dyson speaks of the practice of the "politics of redemption" which is to "translate religious rhetoric about salvation into principled political practice."  Notably, Reverend Dyson is concerned with speaking people who then act.  Dyson implies that from our stories, and the stories of the other, we can learn what needs to be done, what we can agree about accomplishing, and what new methods and procedures we can devise.  The issue is not compromise, but developing new options. 

Dyson is speaking about survivors who, together, can advance and flourish; survivors whose experiences are not negated but whose flowering is grounded in a vision of our mutuality. 

In the sixties, Blacks and Jews were touched by the plight of the other.  In the new millennium, Jews and Blacks must form bonds and friendships where they are touched by the very lives of the other.  Making friends will not heal our racial divisions.  But meeting on a level playing field where concerns and insights can be shared will help us learn more about ourselves, and precisely there is where real change begins. 

When we accommodate the other without denying our values, but by enlivening our values, when we help the other when and where they would be helped, support them when and where we are able, and cherish them always, we are in the presence of the Redeemer, we are agents of redemption.  In terms of trauma, our relief from suffering carries the higher necessity of refusing to perpetuate sufferings, of boldly negating suffering. 

This being so, I can only imagine the holy is present, supportive, healing in a very special way in that precious realm where a Jew not only refrains from using the word, but hears the word "nigger" and is distressed because that word and those sentiments annihilate people. The power of repair and reconciliation is present in that sanctified realm where an African-American can not only refrain from using the word, but winces when he or she hears the word "kike" because that word and those sentiments enslave people. 

When you can feel the anguish of the other, and weep for the other as you would weep for your own, you extend the life which is your own.  And the time of tears is allowed be short through such instances of caring because all that is holy in the world prefers we imagine, and develop, an eventual long day of rejoicing.

Joy is what is promised in both the Jewish and the Black culture: joy, not merely given nor found by accident, but as the result of earnestly tilling the ground where it might grow and flourish. 

We need to practice reaching into the reserves of our most precious and tenuous gifts of humanity.  We need to practice the gift of tendering the benefit of doubt and developing the listening and talking skills our traditions have advertised as the most accommodating approach to both the other and the divine.  We need to seek not only statistics and analyzable datum which tell about our experience but seek compassion within ourselves and care for the other so that together we may learn to love more broadly, more deeply and appreciate more willingly, more earnestly. 

It is the fact of justice arcking through our relationships toward compassion.  We need to pursue and effect the intangible, immeasurable, which signifies quality of life not quantity of wrongs. We need to pursue not the presence of politics but the politics of presence. 

When we pursue the arduous process of self-disciple and morally accommodate the other even when, especially when, it requires a change in our practical and material relationships, then the divine presence stands with the individuals between these communities.  Upon the heads of those unique individuals who can look past labels and respect and cherish someone so different in experience, life-style, and perception than themselves the holy spirit does not simply rest, but activates.

Upon the heads of those who can look beyond the ease and convenience of denouncement and appreciate, love someone so totally different, the holy spirit is an animating pillar of fire. 

Jews who cherish Christians or others in terms of their ultimate concern, Blacks who respect whites in terms of the righteousness of their striving, Caucasians who appreciate and support African-Americans, Christians who love the Jewishness in the other...  how many grand opportunities we have for access to the one who said: you shall love the stranger, the one different than you.  I am the Lord.   

Struggling to appreciate human beings who think differently, acts differently, than we do is perhaps the only preparation there is for looking beyond CNN or NBC to perceive the profound.  When we cherish and celebrate one and, through them, the many who are so different than us, when we decriminalize the incongruity and fear which results from the current practice of comparison for the sake of personal or corporate boasting, there is God. 

The divine presence stands with both these and those and says: I have brought you out of the land of the narrows.  I have uprooted the plantations.  I have stopped the transports of death.  I have torn off the doors of the creamatorium.  I have rejected "strange fruit."  I have abolished "whites only" facilities.  I have ended oppressive relationships.  I have melted all engines of destruction, abuse, repression, scorn, ridicule, insult, ignorance and insensitivity.  When will you?

G. David Schwartz is the former president of Seedhouse, the online interfaith committee. Schwartz is the author of A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue and coauthor, with Jacqueline Winston, of Parables In Black and White. Currently a volunteer at Drake Hospital in Cincinnati, Schwartz continues to write. His new book, Midrash and Working Out Of The Book

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Westover: Giving Girls a Place of Their Own

By Laurie Lisle

Westover, a girls' school in Middlebury, Connecticut, was founded in 1909 by emancipated "New Women," educator Mary Hillard and architect Theodate Pope Riddle. Landscape designer Beatrix Farrand did the plantings. It has evolved from a finishing school for the Protestant elite, including F. Scott Fitzgerald's first love, to a meritocracy for pupils of many religions and races from all over the world. The fascinating account of the ups and downs of this female community is the subject of Laurie Lisle's lively and well-researched book. The author describes the innovations of the idealistic minister's daughter who founded the school in 1909, her intellectual successor who turned it into a college preparatory school in the 1930s, the quiet headmaster who managed to keep it open during the turbulent 1970s, and the prize-winning mathematics teacher, wife, and mother who leads the high school today. This beautifully illustrated book tells an important story about female education during decades of dramatic change in America.—Publisher, Wesleyan

 

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The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

Foreword by Mary Helen Washington. Afterword by Dorothy Sterling

DeCosta-Willis makes it possible to look back in a new way into the character of wells, and, more than that, into the daily life of African-Americans a century ago.—Chicago Tribune

 

Wells and DeCosta-Willis join together across time in a scholarly collaborative dance of sisterhood to produce a work that not only holds an insightful mirror to the past, but could be used as a guidepost for African-American and other women today in living totally self-defined lives.—Tri-State Defender

 

A unique look at the life o an independent, unmarried African-American woman coping with financial hardships, romantic entanglements, sexism, and racism . . . A substantial contribution to African-American Studies—Publisher Weekly

 

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.—Publishers Weekly

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Becoming American Under Fire

Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship

During the Civil War Era

By Christian G. Samito

In Becoming American under Fire, Christian G. Samito provides a rich account of how African American and Irish American soldiers influenced the modern vision of national citizenship that developed during the Civil War era. By bearing arms for the Union, African Americans and Irish Americans exhibited their loyalty to the United States and their capacity to act as citizens; they strengthened their American identity in the process. . . . For African American soldiers, proving manhood in combat was only one aspect to their quest for acceptance as citizens. As Samito reveals, by participating in courts-martial and protesting against unequal treatment, African Americans gained access to legal and political processes from which they had previously been excluded. The experience of African Americans in the military helped shape a postwar political movement that successfully called for rights and protections regardless of race. For Irish Americans, soldiering in the Civil War was part of a larger affirmation of republican government and it forged a bond between their American citizenship and their Irish nationalism. The wartime experiences of Irish Americans helped bring about recognition of their full citizenship through naturalization and also caused the United States to pressure Britain to abandon its centuries-old policy of refusing to recognize the naturalization of British subjects abroad. / For Love of Liberty

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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