I am Jewish. I read an article last night that said while aggression against Jews is nothing new in this country, that Saturday’s mass shooting was the largest anti-semantic attack to bring about death since the inception of our country began. I’m not sure if this is accurate. I didn’t research the numbers myself. However, that actually shocked me.
What it actually made me realize is that this isn’t about Jews or Muslims, or blacks or Illegals. Its about Americans. The problem is that Americans have learned to hate. Not all of us, but too many of us. And not enough of us have learned to stand up and say enough is enough. Sir Edmund Burke said “The thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” We have to do something. And attending vigils or discussions isn’t enough. Posting armed guards outside synagogues and mosques is not enough.
Yes I carry a sidearm, and I pray I never have to use it. It is not a popular position amongst many Jews. In fact, I remember once sitting in my seat as my Rabbi spoke from the bimah (sanctuary platform) against the carrying of sidearms because more violence does not help the situation. I felt like he was staring straight at me. I felt like everyone knew I was wearing my sidearm right where I sat. Of course that was ridiculous. In point I agree with the premise of what he was saying. Just not about disarmament. I guess that’s how it will always be for people on each side of gun rights. We will probably never see eye to eye. And that’s okay. I won’t disagree with everything a person says just because I don’t agree with one thing a person says. It’s what makes me the most complicated person you may ever meet.
What I did agree with his is this; When hate and violence is perpetrated, more hate is not the answer. We have to be part of the solution, not the problem. In fact I just had this discussion with my daughters last night. As their Jewish class mates often speak out against our President, I encourage them to remind their friends that we have to come together in unity. That more hate will not solve the problem. I encourage my daughters not to argue with their friends, as that will only encourage more divisiveness. I don’t even tell them to use words like love, because in the face of hatred and tragedy, many people have a hard time loving aggressors. But offering to be part of the solution instead of being another problem is something we can all accomplish by coming together. And we won’t do that by throwing more hatred into the world.
However, I disagree that arming myself “just-in-case” is not an act of hate. It is just good business. And coming from a family of farmers and people who live and the back woods, I have learned that having a sidearm is just smart. When I go trekking in bear country I also pack bear bells and snake kits, and other counter measures to protect myself. I take precautions to warn predators I am in their area so as not to sneak up on them, and in the event I encounter them (which has happened) I know how to handle the situation, so as to not have to harm the animal. Remember, I am in their territory. But I am also trained to protect myself, and my family if the animal were to aggress me. Luckily that has not ever been the case.
Unfortunately we live in a world where humans are sometimes predators. So, living near the populous, I have also learned, and yes, I have learned, how to protect myself from them. I sincerely hope that like natures predators I will never have to use those learned skills. However, for a Rabbi to tell me that it is wrong to conceal carry because I am perpetrating hate by doing so, I think he is mistaken. All those *un*armed guards he hired to protect us were sitting in their vehicles in the parking lot while we were inside. A predatorial armed gunman could kill many before they could help us. There were no security checks entering the building. Just off duty, unarmed cops in the car. If I could save one individual, my life would be worth it. I would gladly (armed or not) put my life on the line to save another.
I think it was a WordPress article I was reading where the congregant of another synagogue received the news of the shooting while they were in services themselves, and they all looked around to each other, realizing that they were all surrounded by equally unarmed friends. Exposed, vulnerable, naked!
I am not saying that we all need to leave our vigils this week and go buy guns. In fact I don’t think that would solve the problem. While I do think an armed America makes armed individuals think twice before acts of violence. I do not think it is the answer to our problems. I think that would just create mass hysteria during times of crisis. In times off extreme crisis, I think an armed public can actually be its own worst enemy as its turns on itself as every shadow could be a perceived threat. But I say extreme crisis.
But I did start out with a call to action. Saying that merely attending vigil and discussions are not enough. So what is enough?
I think we need to look at the roots. We need to look at why this is even happening in the first place. In my last post, which had nothing to do with this, I said I am a study of people. I look at the gunman, and I don’t see a gunman. I don’t see evil. Our Rabbi this week said a “disturbed man” chose to make an “evil” decision. I just wanted to scream “NO NO NO!!!” Why do people treat everything so black and white? Yes this is tragedy. But when my oldest asked me why someone would do such a thing, I told her that he was hurting and broken. And reminded her that some people haven’t be able to get the healing in life that they need to gain balance in their mind, either because they couldn’t forgive or they were never afforded the opportunities. Some people were so broken in childhood that they were broken beyond repair, but we can’t automatically assume that their families caused it out of spite, because remember that hurting people, hurt people. They do the best they can and often don’t realize the damage they are causing.
She responded saying we needed to remember the families through everything. I reminded her that we needed to remember the gunman’s family too, because a lot of people were going to blame them as well. She asked what the gunman’s name was, I told her that didn’t matter, we just needed to remembered those who were lost.
Later she came to me and told me that they were already in a better place. We needed to remember him too, because he is in a living hell on earth. Somebody has to remember his struggle.
If an 11 year old can remember to show love and compassion for the man who committed the largest attack against her people in American History, why can’t adults learn not to hate? Why can’t we learn to show grace and mercy?