Posted on: January 10, 2011
Like many Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, I’m still reeling from last week’s Tuscon gunfire, murder, and attempted murder on Congresswoman Gifford. I try to think back to election night when I sat in a bar with hundreds of strangers who actually took the time to look one another in the eyes. Strangers hugged one another, slapped each other on the backs, high fived, and tears of relief, joy, and probably surprise ran down the faces of so many of us as we watched the first black man win the Presidential election. I imagine if it had been Mrs. Clinton who won the democratic seat rather than Mr. President that the reactions would be the same. We were happy, engaging, and even a little surprised because something that should have come so natural, should have been just what happens, should have been the norm wasn’t.
I remember sitting there feeling excited, pressure for being a black person, and nervousness. Was the world, more accurately, was America ready for a black man to be president? Would they have taken more readily or easily to a woman? I don’t follow politics because for the most part, I feel removed from them. When there are issues that have to do with my person; race, gender politics, religious rights I’m all ears but things like unions, taxes, etc. I’m honestly not aware of. When I heard that Congresswoman Gifford, Arizona’s first Jewish woman to hold that office, was shot and seriously injured I was shocked and horrified.
After 9/11 it goes without saying that our country has become hostile. There was a terrible joke after September 11th that now other people (Arabs) would feel like we (blacks) have felt for years. Now I don’t know what to think. In a society where people, myself included, get most of their information from their televisions or internet websites whose content, based on political ties, skews information what are we to think? Information flies from one coast to another, from one side of the planet to the other in the click of a button. Warfare is carried out by a phone call as well as man-to-man. A politician from Alaska can post images on her website one day and the next innocent people are killed and more are wounded.
When did free speech become so deadly, or more accurately, when did we assume that free speech came without consequences? Where are our flower children? We’re lazy. In the 60′s people my age and younger left their homes to march on Washington without a thought. People in the south refused to give up their places at lunch counters without thinking of what might happen-even though they knew. What do I do? How am I making change? Why am I so scared?
I don’t have answers to my questions and I don’t know why I feel my feet cemented to the place I stand rather than take a stand. My prayers go out to the congresswoman and her family. My prayers go out to the people who lost their lives and their families. My prayers go out the those injured, those who witnessed this event, and the world. As Jews, we know that the messiah will come when there is peace in the world, when the Temple is rebuilt, and when the tribes return to Israel. How or why would the messiah come when we can’t get the first piece of the puzzle in place. Within our own Jewish community there is war waging; who is a real Jew, who is not, who decides, why do they get to decide. We make war with our neighbors, in Israel especially but in our own communities here in the US, in Jewish neighborhoods. We are human and not divine so there are challenges but Torah teaches us that we shouldn’t do what is hateful to others-but we do.
Today, right now President Obama has declared a national moment of silence. Pray with the nation that we find peace.