When life hits hard, we have a natural inclination to focus on the things that went wrong. I’ve always believed that people would understand me and where I was coming from. Since Saturday, October 27, 2018, I question the degree of compassion and kindness and predictability in the world, and of the people around us.
My kids attended a Jewish day school in Pittsburgh. My kids have been at Tree of Life Synagogue for Morning Prayer services and other events. They have sat in the back of the synagogue, in the last row. How many mornings dropping them off, did I feel rushed and annoyed by a three block detour to my own morning routine.
Growing up, we were taught that if we could find compassion, or even pretend compassion, it would heal us so much more than retaliation ever could. I am unashamed to say that much of what I now believe about diversity and social justice I learned growing up on Star Trek reruns, watching a multiracial crew operate as friends and a team, and seeing how they responded to the challenges posed by societies different from their own. But it is not enough.
Normally, when I get angry, I go into a long series of thoughts about what’s wrong with the situation. It should be like this, they should be like that. I’m right, they’re wrong. This sucks.
Politicians are sending their thoughts and prayers to Pittsburgh, but we voted for them to do more than think and pray. We voted for them to act.
I’m tired of understanding, I’m tired of waiting, and I’m tired of trying to figure why time after time our efforts to change seem to fail. This experience has me shaken to the core. I question the fundamental beliefs about the world and our place in it.
The attack in Pittsburgh wasn’t just a nut with an arsenal of guns. It was a nut with an arsenal of hate and guns aimed at Jews. Not just anyone. Jews.
I’m tired of people blaming the Jews.
I’m tired of people blaming the Jews all throughout history.
This week, we’ve learned that more compassion is required of us and an even greater effort is required of us. We are all—I think every one of us—tired.
The shooting, three blocks from my home, has been called the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents were up more than 50 percent in 2017. Donald Trump became president in 2017, a president whose first response to the massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh was to blame them for not having an armed guard.
We can never take the side of hate. Because we can’t control other people, when we let their thoughts, words, and actions dictate what’s possible for us, we give them complete power over us and render ourselves helpless to do anything about the pain and discomfort we feel. We’ve trapped ourselves in our own nightmare.
The choices we make define the life we are living. If you are unhappy with your life, or just want to change it, start by evaluating your choices. Left unchecked, hate speech leads to hate crimes. President Trump has done far too much to normalize hate speech. We cannot allow ourselves to become a nation of bigots, racists, and anti-Semites. Hate cannot get a place at the table.
We can’t know for sure how things will turn out, that history is long, and sometimes bad events can have positive outcomes. I have discovered that the choices that I believe are good for me are not very comfortable ones to make. I want to know how people survived their darkest moments, and how they climbed out of the hole. Selfishly, I want to learn this so I can feel hopeful again.
It is time for us to act. If we want to undo today’s situation, we have to figure out what role we want to play. I have no nostalgia for the way things were. We know that we have made some progress and blame will only destroy it. Blame will not strengthen our communities or our schools or our families or our workforce. Blame will rob us of those things and we have had enough of that. So I ask you to dig down deep and find that compassion in your hearts because it will keep us moving forward, together.
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