As I write these words, it is still being debated – perhaps without resolution possible – if the horrific attack at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando was “just” a hate crime, an act of terrorism or both.
Whatever and if ever the matter be sorted, I suspect it matters little, if at all, to the dead, their bereaved families, as well to those wounded either physically and/or emotionally in this most recent outbreak of the demonic.
In addition to so many tears for the victims, so many moments for reflection about the nature of our country and world, we need also to
address a challenge that confronts all of us, not only the power-brokers and politicians, the policymakers and lobbyists, all of us. Namely, what can we do to make a difference?
While I don’t pretend to have a monopoly on solutions, I am certain that unless we find ways to cross the political divides in our country, no matter the threats from external violence or homegrown miscreants, we must in the words of Pope, and now St. John XXIII find
a way to “… look at each other without mistrust. Let us meet each other without fear.” I am convinced that is why the Hebrew word for a
dispute or argument (Chelek) means a piece or portion, as in no one has a monopoly on the whole truth. While my own convictions fall under the rubric of (standard) liberal solutions, I know that no matter how right I am that agenda will not advance without finding a common language with those who have alternative visions about our country and predicament. The debate about building a wall on our southern border aside, there are too many walls of separation already in place and in our country.
This time, as too often, the victims were members of the LGBTQ community. But we all know instances where members of many, just about any distinct group, including ours, were singled out as targets for violence. Such calls to mind a well-known reflection – it must not become little more than cliché – by the German Lutheran minister, Pastor Martin Nieimoller. Some might say offered too late, as in the aftermath of World War II, but it is not too late both to remember and to act. Further I am intrigued, even as many will be familiar with the commentary, that a version exists (shortened below) that suggests:
First they came for the homosexuals, and I did not
speak out – because I was not a homosexual.
Then they came for the Socialist, and I did not speak
out – because I was not a Socialist…
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out.
We must speak out and shout out and demand not only action by our leaders but also that our lives be models of commitment and connection, especially for those whom our tradition recognizes as most vulnerable, the strangers in our midst, the persons not “like us.” For if we do, we may not change the content of our world, but we shall certainly change other lives and, God willing, our own.
With prayer and hope,
Rabbi Michael Zedek