One thousand seven hundred fifty-two years ago today, some sparse historical records offer that a Roman priest and physician by the name of Valentine was beaten, stoned, jailed and later beheaded for ministering to persecuted Christians under the reign of emperor Claudius II, the Goth.
According to legend, Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness. Another common legend states that he defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war. Today, of course, the celebration of love and lovers on Valentine’s Day has reached a level of commercialism that is a tribute to the jejune.
On this same day in 1349, thousands of Jews were burned to death in Strasbourg, France, while thousands more were banished from the area. The pogrom was tied to the spread of the Black Plague, which first occurred in Messina on the Italian island of Sicily and was traced to Central Asia.
Historians attribute the massacre and its aftermath to the suspicions of the Christian majority, which arose upon rumors that Jews had poisoned brooks and wells, even the air, as a means to annihilate the Christians of “every country at one blow.” (Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, 1894).
Sadly, these two events reflect a legacy that persists to the present. Protests against vaccinations are led by neo-Nazis with swastikas while Fox News commentators proclaim that the president is rationing medical treatment to ensure white people are last in line, surer to be infected. This theme is aggregated and promulgated by companion QAnon and right-wing conspirators as a coordinated plan to replace white people with people of color for political advantage.
Reason need not apply and is, in fact, not welcome. Worse, the presence of such twaddle makes it a bit difficult to say, Happy Valentine’s Day With Love!