“Love never dies,” the Rev. James Manion preached in his Palm Sunday sermon at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in the District’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Much will come to an end; knowledge will pass away, he said. But love, Manion declared, will never fail.
It was an inspiring message, made all the more powerful by the beginning of Holy Week observance leading up to Easter Sunday and the end of Julian Riley Dugas’s life the day before. Both occasions celebrated triumphal arrivals.
But love was also put to the test this week.
Even before the Holy Week’s days of dread and agony came moments of sheer terror in a Kansas City suburb: shootings at a Jewish community center and the Village Shalom retirement home on the eve of Passover. An evil act apparently carried out by an evil man; the accused shooter, Frazier Glenn Miller, is a Ku Klux Klansman — the antithesis of the one who rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and of Dugas, the late lawyer, civil rights pioneer and leader of the Interreligious Committee on Race Relations.
This Holy Week is different.
Facing a future without the guiding hand of Julian Dugas is something new for me, but I know I’m not alone.
Nothing of any legal, political or social consequence that occurred in the District of Columbia from the 1950s to the 1970s was beyond his touch, including the Home Rule Act.
Dugas was, however, more than a law professor, shaper of public policy and D.C. power broker. To many of us young African Americans venturing into public service, finance, education, law, medicine and other professions, Dugas was an inspiring and empowering figure.
A son of the South — born in South Carolina, reared in Augusta, Ga. — Julian Dugas knew America’s dark side. He also knew America’s promise. He never gave up trying make the country live up to its commitment. And Dugas led by example, demanding that those walking with him and those coming after him never give up.
Get an education, he argued, and then educate others. That’s what Dugas did in law school classrooms. But his real tutorials took place in the privacy of restaurants, offices and homes, usually with refreshments. Dugas was the person to whom many of us turned for lessons on how to cope with challenges. He was our sounding board and wise counselor.
His demands were few but unshakable: Care for others, not yourself; keep your ego in check; don’t give up, never give in.
His pilgrimage ended at the start of Holy Week. He left in triumph.
And those who remain are left with Miller, who shouted “Heil Hitler” at the time of his arrest.
As people around the world were gathering palms for their procession to worship services, as family and friends in Washington turned their thoughts to a heroic lawyer who helped end de jure segregation in the public schools, as preparations for commemorating the Israelites’ emancipation from slavery in ancient Egypt were underway, Miller was apparently plotting attacks on Jewish facilities.
Three innocent people were murdered on Palm Sunday, their families devastated, all because a man thought they were Jews. In fact, they were Christians. What difference does that make? They were human beings.
Miller has a history of hate nearly as long as Dugas’s history of service.
I’ve found it nearly impossible to think of this week — Palm Sunday, Passover, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday — and not think of the Frazier Glenn Millers in our midst.
This is what he said in a radio ad in his run for the U.S. Senate in 2010:
“White men have become the biggest cowards ever to walk the earth. The world has never witnessed such yellow cowards. We’ve sat back and allowed the Jews to take over our government, our banks and our media. We’ve allowed tens of millions of mud people to invade our country, steal our jobs and our women, and destroy our children’s futures. America is no longer ours. America belongs to the Jews who rule it and to the mud people who multiply in it.”
Dugas frequently warned that “some people are constitutionally unable to accept us as worthy of respect.”
Press on to the end, taught Julian Dugas. Commemorate the Passion, observe Passover, declared the clergy.
Death doesn’t get to have the last word.
“Love never dies,” proclaimed Father Manion.
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