using hashtags to jeer at, and make fun of, white women who call 911 to report alleged suspicious behavior by black men is a denial of the serious racism involved,
and it also signals sexist behavior in that the practice of creating “cute” nicknames when referring to the women–because white men who do similar things are rarely, if ever, labeled this way.
I urge you to read her post about these points–especially her iteration of the role of white women, especially in the South, in creating the “black sexual predator” who destroys white female purity (this system was of course created by white men to keep black men in line while many of the white men sexually abused black women).
But I also encourage you to reflect on her interaction with the young black teen on the D.C. Metro. His instinctive, self-protective action in the face of transit police boarding the train is very revealing, and all too common and necessary for the survival of young, and old, black men.
The “isms” are often, probably always, tangled up together. Part of our task is to untangle and name them, and change our attitudes and behaviors. Hesse helps us here.
It’s been way too long since I wrote here. I still believe in the power of love to build community, but I need to remember the love has to be active. I express much of that love through writing.
And its not that I have not been writing–every week a new poem at faithfulpoetics.net and a new post by Malachi Grennell and I at sexbodiesspirit.net, often about, at least indirectly about building community. But there are other topics near and dear to me–racial justice, undermining white privilege, justice for Palestine and true security for both Israel and Palestine, caring for our physical world, sharing theological visions and thoughts outside poetry.
Today, I want to focus on the story of one young man in Baltimore–a story I encountered in the Washington Post recently, and which has renewed my hope and my desire for change in our marginalized urban communities, the places where hope seems impossible and where violence becomes a way of life. But even in these troubled, even desolate, places, sprouts of life spring up and somehow, by the grace of God and some good people, they are not destroyed. Indeed, they are nurtured and we see yet again that it is possible to make a way out of what seems to be no way.
I can’t recount the entire story of this young man, Khalil Bridge, but you can find the story, “Coming of Age in a City Coming Apart” here. The basic story is that he has grown up in a troubled part of Baltimore, with a lot of street violence and drugs, that his father is long gone, that his mother has so many ailments he has been raising her (and now she is in a care facility), and that he has led a checkered life–but thanks to some grit in himself, and some amazing educators and social workers he has graduated from high school, and is headed, thanks to a GoFundMe campaign to community college. The money and support really came about because of the article, linked above, by Theresa Vargas of the Washington Post.
In addition to the report about Khalil Bridge personally, Vargas makes a powerful point about the presence of violence in the community served by the school from which Khalil just graduated, Renaissance Academy High School and Booker T. Washington Middle School (housed in the same building). In a survey by Promise Heights, a support program run through the University of Maryland School of Social Work, 41% of students surveyed reported knowing someone younger than 19 who was a victim of violence. In addition, 23% of the total sample reported being a victim of violence themselves, and 40% reported knowing someone who has a gun.
How students can succeed in such circumstances is pretty much a mystery to me. That is what makes Khalil Bridge’s story so remarkable. I really hope you read all three-plus pages from the Post.
I contributed a small amount to the GoFundMe campaign, which has raised more than $38,000 on a goal of $30,000. Thus, I am now going to support an organization started by the principal of Renaissance High, Nikkia Rowe, called “Seeds of Promise: Transforming Black Boys into Men,” which aims to provide support in the school for mentors and others to help some of the young men who show real promise. I think that is a wise investment, as does Rick Barth, the Dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. You can link to that funding page here.
It’s simple really. We’re never going to break the endless cycle of inner city violence and despair if we don’t begin to make special investments in at least some of the most promising, and simultaneously improve public infrastructure in those same communities.
Just because its simple, does not mean it is easy. But I am quite sure that my investment in Khalil, modest though it is, matched with those of hundreds of others, will help him go all the way to a brilliant career doing something important and a beautiful life he otherwise had no reason to expect or hope for.
And I am also sure that Antwon Cooper, the mentor who was one of the first four hired by Rowe in the Seeds of Promise program and who supported and challenged Khalil Bridge, can do more good, and could, with his three colleagues, do even more if they had more co-workers in the program. That’s where we and others come in.
I have lived in Maryland for just shy of one year, and I can now see that Baltimore is one of the most dis-eased cities in our nation. I was born in Michigan, 40 miles northwest of Detroit, and that place has barely survived some of the worst social storms endured by any people, They are on the way back, I am told. I had thought I would try to find a way to invest in Detroit, but I think I will do this closer to my home. Real work by not only government and schools, but also private citizens taking initiative is required if we are turn to this beautiful place around. Again, click the program name here for the link to support “Seeds of Promise: Transforming Black Boys into Men.”
I hope you can help. Give if you can and pray, and even if you can’t give, pray for Khalil and his brothers–those who yet live and those already struck down–in Baltimore.
In October, 2014, I visited Jerusalem with my husband Jonathan.While he spent his days participating in the annual conference of the International Association for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, I visited sites in Israel and Palestine. I went first to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. It was appropriate to do so; it is like making confession before praying. To say it was a moving experience is to engage in gross understatement. Two elements were particularly moving to me (and I was touched everywhere I turned). First was the memorial to the children lost in the Holocaust. I could not stop weeping. Second, I went to the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto. At first, I had a hard time seeing it. I was standing in the middle of very large space that looked like a town square. But there was nothing there. Then I realized that was the memorial . . . there was no one left. The people were wiped out. Only the town square remains. More tears.
A few days later, I traveled to Kfar Shaul, a mental hospital a little ways further out from Jerusalem than Yad Vashem. A participant in Jonathan’s conference told me he had walked from Yad Vashem to Kfar Shaul in well less than an hour.
Why did I go to the site of a mental hospital? I went, as I went to Yad Vashem, to honor the dead and missing, this time those killed on April 9, 1948 and those who fled the killing from what was then a small Palestinian village, Deir Yassin. The attack on the village by Zionist paramilitary groups, the Irgun and Lehi, was part of the fierce fighting that was going on between local Arabs and Jews for control of land that was to become the State of Israel.
Reports of the killing of villagers in Deir Yassin spread quickly among many villages and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians began.
Today, instead of a marker for the lost village, or any other sign of what happened here 68 years ago today, now the village buildings comprise an Israeli mental hospital called Kfar Shaul. Of course, that facility is behind locked gates, and there is no public entry. There is here an echo of the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto–nobody remains.
I have written the poem below–and I continue to work on it, because it feels incomplete yet–to commemorate my visit in 2014, and to keep erasure of Deir Yassin before us. I will not forget. I ask that you not forget either.
Deir Yassin, Where Are You?
The distance between Yad Vashem and Kfar Shaul more than a stone can throw less than a good morning walk but the canyon between each gapes wide and deep like yes and no a wound buried in enough denial to be ignored
Deir Yassin, where are you?
I. Yad Vashem records the horrors of Holocaust the truth of inhumanity shining the deepness of honesty on brutality recounting the names and faces of victims recalling the perpetrators of butchery recording the names of the righteous among the nations who refused to lie in bed with evil
Tears flow hearts ache minds recoil as we repeat Never Again Never Again knowing in the lurking memory of time it is a promise we may not keep
Deir Yassin, where are you?
II. Kfar Shaul tells a different story speaking in code known to those who want to forget a moment of silence lasting lifetimes a center for mental health mental health resting on the remains of a village living in denial recording nothing of the souls buried beneath its glassy façade locking patients and remembrances of things past lives gone behind security cameras and guard posts
Deir Yassin, where are you?
III. It was a day in what should have been another lifetime but feels like only yesterday the wounds buried just deep enough in denial to be ignored continuing the mournful fugue of historical futility A day April 9 1948 righteous men believing in a vision to reclaim their ancient home struck out at villagers in homes these in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong side at least the losing side
Deir Yassin, where are you?
100 or 250 gone of 600 or 750 inhabitants depending on the history we read, one-sixth to one-third gone whatever your source reports of rape men paraded through Jerusalem to the cheers of other men and then shot others dispute all the horror blaming it on Arab soldiers whose single-fire guns sought to stave off automatic weapons and mortars
Deir Yassin,where are you?
IV. The exodus of villagers not just Deir Yassin 250,000 refugees in camps symbol of the new order creating fear among people without an army even a government some said they did not even exist living in a land without a people
Deir Yassin, where are you?
The conquerors terrorized in other lands hated and feared and maligned survivors of the slaughtered came a people without a land to call home filling the homes of those who fled becoming a people and a land as one prosperous and strong proud and feared hated too
Deir Yassin, where are you?
V. Are you under the wound scabbed over now by a place for mental health a place of screams and dreams of loves and lives lost remembered repeating in flashing fits of confession and accusation rambling humbled haunted tales of fear and illusion even bouts of sometimes reality? Yad Vashem. Kfar Shaul.
Deir Yassin, where are you?
No word about what lies buried under
Deir Yassin, where are you?
No names on homes still standing as offices and cottages for the new village inmates even as their walls and doors and windows and roofs hold the secrets of yesterday’s disappeared
VI. A visitor stands on the sidewalk tearfully remembering the histories he has read and Holocaust stories he can almost recite word for word from memory and the endless arguments about who killed how many in ‘48 and ‘67 and ‘73 and ‘14 and all the other years too and why it had to be so persist like a bad dream growing more weird frightening ugly
Yad Vashem. Kfar Shaul.
Deir Yassin, where are you?
His mind reciting repeating mumbling stumbling Never Again Never. Again. Knowing knowing knowing it is a promise we have yet to keep
Today, March 30, is Palestinian Land Day, a day set aside to mark a horrific moment on this date in 1976 in relations between Israeli citizens (both Jewish and Arab) and Palestinians.
I had not intended to write today in this series (see previous entries on March 3, February 8, and February 4), but when I learned of the significance of this date, I felt it right to acknowledge history. I make no claim to expertise on this event or its celebration, but given the fact that few news outlets in the United States report much news about nonviolent events among Palestinians, and because I did see some shocking disparities in land and water allocation (with Palestinians at considerable disadvantage) during my visit in 2014, I decided to share this information.
Here is an excerpt from a post of two years ago in the +972 blog…..
On that dreadful day 38 years ago, in response to Israel’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes,” a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations.
In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, since today, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip but is ever-present in the country’s treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens.
As I continue to learn more about the land, its history, and the current situation, I will offer other information.
What remains clear is that contest between these two portions of humanity is far from over. And my prayer remains, on this day and every day, that there be no more martyrs of any type for any reason. There is already enough blood to go around.
My friend Rob has been talking about his tough neighborhood 50 years ago in Philadelphia, where fistfights, dares, taunts, and threats were all too common. Still, he says, “we all walked away.”
What he means is that there were no guns–boys and young men fought, they acted ugly to each other, but they did not kill each other.
No guns. What a concept! Think how different today’s Baltimore, or D.C., or Philadephia or New York or Detroit would be.
That would be my ideal world. No guns on the streets except for police when absolutely needed to stop crime. Indeed no guns in the forests or woodlands either (I am a vegetarian and don’t want animals killed for our food) except for those legally empowered to protect us from marauding, dangerous wild animals (similar to police protecting us from marauding, dangerous human animals).
Still, I know that is unrealistic, especially in the United States.
Still, something must be done. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in much of the nation today, deaths from gunshots now outnumber deaths from traffic accidents, and overall a person in the United States is as likely to die from gunshot as from auto accidents. This is a new situation, an indicator of two things:
how much has been done over the past several decades to make cars, highways, and driving safer (as well as improved medical treatment)
and how little has been done to make guns safer to use and to restrict their use by people not properly equipped to do so.
Gun-related deaths did decline in the 1990s but the numbers have since remained steady. And homicides by gunshot have declined, while suicides committed with guns have risen.
Thus, it feels to me that at least some of the rhetoric about Second Amendment rights is saying that people have a constitutional right to kill themselves with guns. And I suppose I agree (although I do not know if the Supreme Court agrees).
However, I am not sure I agree that it is an unlimited right. Can we not better protect people in the midst of mental health crises from killing themselves (as well as others)? Is that not a matter of protecting the public health (especially when unstable people have access to guns in order to kill others)?
Three things can be done.
First, we can make guns safer by mandating various safety locks and mechanisms so people (including children) cannot just pick up a gun and shoot.
Second, we can insist on background checks on all gun buyers and every purchase. No exceptions.
Third, Congress must remove the ban on many types of federal gun research–so we can be smarter about how to prevent gun deaths without denying the right of people to own guns. Much of the decrease in automobile-related deaths is traceable to extensive federal research, often undertaken in cooperation with the auto industry. The NRA and the gun industry could learn from this. Fewer gun deaths would make the cause of gun ownership less toxic in our culture.
There is another set of factors to consider here. Like much else in our nation, gun-related deaths reveal underlying racial and class divisions. For example, Black Americans are significantly more likely to be victims of homicide even though only 1 in 5 Black households has guns. In contrast, more than 2 in 5 Americans who call themselves white have guns in their households, but gun violence is more likely there to be from suicide. Both sets of numbers make changing some of the rules imperative.
It feels to me that a culture of violence is growing our nation–verbal violence in our politics, gun violence on our streets, visual violence in the world of video games and even the traditional and social media. Of course, ISIS and the Taliban and other violently radical groups cause great anxiety–especially in light of San Bernardino–and many people seem to be trying to ratchet it higher.
The bottom line is that violence in response to violence does not increase safety or peace ultimately. Instead, it simply multiplies the overall level of violence. Hatred begets hatred, violence begets violence.
My friend Rob’s old Philadelphia neighborhood sounds almost idyllic–boys being boys, men or about-to-be men being men, contesting for territory and badges of masculinity but staying alive to shoot hoops or chase girls or just hang out and talk big.
It seems hard to believe that old days may have been less violent, and yet in some ways and places that may be true. We are often blinded by thinking that technological progress is the same as moral progress (though improved gun technology could lower the odds for gun deaths), but it ain’t necessarily so.
I doubt the world is any more violent now than in former times, but somehow it feels ever more close and intimate–probably because the means of sharing it is so immediate and in-your-face.
I speak here of more than what we usually identify as physical violence against others–war, bombing, shootings, arson, vandalism, assault, murder, rape–by including other forms of violence against the bodies of others–hunger, malnutrition, lack of medical care, homelessness and lack of basic body protections.
I mean social violence, too, including ugly words spoken to and about others, individually and in groupings–exclusion and threats to exclude people from groups based on irrelevant characteristics such as skin color, gender and gender expression, religion, sexual orientation, nationality and ethnicity, age–in person and on social media, hateful words spoken in hushed tones behind the back of the despised, the silences when those who hear the ugliness fail to speak up to offer correction or objection, as well as the violence that arises when two people, or a family or group of close friends, erupt in ugly words, and sometimes strike out physically, aimed at each other.
There also is psychic and emotional violence which can sometimes be cold and wordless, holding another or others hostage through spoken and unspoken threats of bodily harm, or eternal damnation or disgrace, if the object person even thinks what has been defined as wrong or evil or just dares to exist.
There is so much violence. And that is undoubtedly an incomplete list.
Where there is violence there will be no peace. It has been said many times that peace is not the mere absence of violence. But such absence is the ground on which peace may grow.
Why do we so often resort to violence when doing so merely increases, or escalates, the level of violence? Is violence ever a good response to violence?
Few people doubt that Hitler and the Nazis could have been stopped without violence. Is that enough to justify its use in every day life, in political discourse in the land of the free and home of the brave, as the template for so much that passes for international relations?
I have no good answers. All I know to do in this moment of my life is to begin to observe my own violence, and the violence I experience around me, and the violence I learn about in larger social realms.
I want to understand more fully the role of violence in my life and in the lives of those around me, and in my community, state, nation and world. Naming it is the beginning, cataloging it, labeling it, help, too.
Perhaps what I am proposing is a violence inventory or index, admittedly not a pleasant thought and task, but still I think necessary if we want, as I do, a more peaceful, loving world. (you can read a UN report on violence here)
Will you join me? Will you commit with me to looking clearly at the violence in our lives, describing it and our feelings, owning the times when we are the agents of violence or at least complicit in it, as well as the ways and times we see others acting as purveyors of violence–in the hope we can change ourselves, and contribute to wider change, making peace more possible?
On this Solstice, when the dark lasts longest in the 24 hours, let us go deep into ourselves and into our world to hold up, examine, and discard and disown some bit of violence.
Political rhetoric often gets in the way of facts, not to mention reason and logical thought.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz–wanting to establish his bona fides as the toughest of the tough against ISIL–proposed “carpetbombing” the terrorist group into oblivion, suggesting that with enough bombs the desert might glow.
However, Cruz misuses the term “carpetbombing,” when he suggests not that we level the ISIL capital but rather bomb where the troops are. This is not carpetbombing–it is targeted bombing, which the United States and its allies are already doing. Carpet bombing is what the United States and Britain did to Dresden, Germany in World War II, flattening the city and its people.
Another word for carpetbombing could be “massacre.” As I read about Cruz’s proposal I thought back to two episodes of “Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman” Jonathan and I watched recently. Entitled “Washita,” it involves a re-telling of the complete destruction of an encampment of Cheyenne by troops led by then Lieutenant Colonel George Custer in 1868.
At the time, this battle was seen as a great victory over the Cheyenne, many of whom were resisting being moved onto reservations–and it restored Custer’s reputation as a military hero, ten months after he had been stripped of his rank and command for desertion and mistreatment of his troops.
There is one problem, however. The encampment was entirely populated by peaceful Cheyenne, including Chief Black Kettle who promoted peaceful relations with the government and settlers. The entire camp was on reservation land where the people had settled after being promised safety by the local Army commander. There was a white flag flying from one of the dwellings, indicating a desire to avoid conflict.
Within a few hours of the early morning raid, begun while the village was still sleeping, 103 Cheyenne braves were killed, including Black Kettle and his wife, and many other women and children. Some braves escaped and fought back, but in the end nothing was left.
This is how carpetbombing looks up close and personal. Of course, it is demoralizing, one could say terrorizing, to many of those who remain–which is what Custer and his boss, General Philip Sheridan, wanted, in order for more native Americans to move onto reservations.
But it also creates deep resentment and anger in others, which is, I suspect, what such action would produce in the Middle East. The loss of innocent life would be a great recruitment gain for ISIL and other extemist groups.
However, I imagine it would make Senator Cruz, and presumably others, feel good about his leadership skills, believing that toughness is the main ingredient . . . if we are just tough enough, violent enough, mean enough, these ugly people will either cave in or be destroyed.
This is what fear induces, unless it is coupled with reason and intelligence. Public policy rooted in fear, flavored in shrillness and hyperbole, is invariably bad policy, producing reactions and counter-reactions that leave the world in a worse place than before.
Senator Cruz, like Mr. Trump, is well educated–Cruz after all his talk and actions about being a political outsider, is a Harvard Law School grad and served as a clerk for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist–but in his drive to win the presidential nomination seems willing to sacrifice accuracy in speaking, not to mention thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of innocent lives.
The latest ugliness of assault and murder against a group of people–the attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino CA–results in more calls for reasonable gun control by many.
But here’s the deal. No one in the Republican leadership–Congress or the Presidential candidates–is saying anything about control. They express sympathy for the community, and those who grieve the loss of loved ones, but not a word about doing something to stem the tide.
And you know what is really outrageous? Congress has not even given terror-fighting agencies the authority to deny guns to those on the nation’s no-fly list. What’s more, they have refused for decades to put any funding into research on gun violence.
That’s the power of the gun lobby, particularly the NRA (National Rifle Association). They claim to represent gun owners and hunters. I have known a lot of hunters in my lifetime, and I feel certain that most of them would agree that denying guns to people our government, for security reasons, doesn’t let fly around the country is a reasonable measure. And I believe most of them would think that research into ways to deal with, and respond to, gun violence is a reasonable measure.
But the NRA and others have terrorized the GOP, and some Democrats, into thinking that any departure from gun lobby orthodoxy is political suicide. I want to blame the NRA because they bear great responsibility.
But the ones I really blame are the spineless legislators and leaders who refuse to act, again and again, in the face of rising violence through the ready availability of hand guns and assault rifles. There are so many different types of people who commit these horrific acts–mentally unstable, angry religious extremists, sullen former spouses and employees, abortion haters–but they all have one thing in common.They can easily get their hands on guns. Guns are the common denominator. In the case of San Bernardino, these included assault weapons.
Why can anyone other than police and soldiers get access to assault rifles? Why is everyone who wants to buy a gun not subject to a background check? Such checks will not prevent law-abiding people from getting guns, but they can help make sure others do not.
I don’t like to call people names, and certainly not whole groups of people. So I won’t use a label on these leaders who fail to lead, but I will name their behavior: cowardice.
I don’t know how many of them actually own guns, or use them, but what I see are people who are supposed to be out front leading who are, instead, standing behind cover provided by the political guns of the NRA.
In my book, that’s cowardice.
How many more of these horrific situations–how many more school children, college students, public employees (including police of course), people with developmental disabilities (as in San Bernardino), ordinary citizens, mothers and fathers, will we have to lose before they find their spines?
I am praying that one of them, just one, breaks ranks and moves from cowardice into bravery–maybe even acting with courage and conviction like the police officers and emergency personnel, and many civilians who reach out to help, who have to respond when yet another gun-toting killer strikes.
Most of us are soon to celebrate the national holiday called Thanksgiving. It is probably as close to an official religious moment as we have–just about everyone gets into the act, generally by overeating. It is a feasting day when people gather for a sacred meal (even if they do not have religious or spiritual feelings). It is a day of gratitude for what we, as a nation, have received.
But is it celebrated by all? No.
Homeless people may be left out, despite the efforts of many good people to make sure there are public feedings. And like other days when the majority of people gather with family and friends, there are people whose solitary lives are made more painful by their being alone on Thanksgiving Day.
There is one other group that may not be celebrating, or if they do, may see the holiday differently. They may even name it Thanksgrieving (my old friend and mentor, Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé of the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley CA, introduced this term to me many years ago).
In our national mythic lore, the Pilgrims at Plymouth celebrated the first Thanksgiving. And they invited the local natives to join them. Of course, without the aid of the natives there would have been no thanksgiving meal. So it was right to invite them.
But I also know this: over time, native peoples, those who lived in and on this land before any Europeans arrived, became victims rather than invited guests–in their own land. In colonial days, it was often local skirmishes and animosity between a community of European settlers and the local tribe that led to attacks and killing on both sides. And even when there was no physical violence, the settlers often violated the natives by seeking to impose their culture and religion on those they viewed as “heathen” or “savages.”
But as the United States–the nation created by and for immigrants from other places–grew and prospered, large campaigns of relocation and terror began. Native people were killed, slaughtered, in large numbers, through blood shed in battles, and through starvation and disease. Some of the latter loss was not intentional, created by the strains of disease brought to this land that the natives were unable to resist. But there were also deliberate poisonings, too.
Scholars have struggled for decades to figure out how many millions of native peoples were lost. Many use the term genocide, or holocaust, to describe what happened. Estimates of the original native population vary widely, as do estimates of those who died. In 2014, the US Census Bureau said the population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race was 5.4 million, about 2 percent of the total population. Estimates of the original population range from 10 million to 50 million. Clearly, whatever number you accept, the population has been decimated.
Even so, as the national history is commonly told, and observed and celebrated, this day is a happy one.
But it brings terrorizing memories to native victims. This is the most painful part of the holiday for me. As we gather around the festive table, laden with all sorts of good food, I can hear screams of dying Cherokee, Ojibway, Nez Pearce, Cheyenne, Sioux, Powhatan, Monacan, Algonquin, Ottawa, Kiowa women, children, and men. . . . and hundreds of other tribal nations.
And as a vegetarian, I also hear the screams of turkeys (so many call it “Turkey Day”), and pigs, and cattle, all slaughtered so we can celebrate what we have been given. We also are thus again, as in the case of the native peoples, celebrating what we have taken, namely the lives of others.
Thanks. Grieving. Indeed.
Let us face the horror of what has been done, let us feel the pain in our hearts and souls, and then let us ask forgiveness . . . before and as we give thanks.
The violence grows apace in Jerusalem. The contradiction with what its name means, city of peace, is stark. Painful. Ugly.
Who is to blame?
Palestinians who throw stones and bombs, stab people, kill parents in front of their children (picture of their car below)? The Israelis who keep the pressure on the Palestinians by building more settlements, forcing ordinary workers to wait in long lines to get permission to go to work, keep biometrics on each adult to track their movements, and whose security forces make, inevitably, “mistakes”?
There is more than enough blame to go around. There always is.
When Jonathan and I visited Jerusalem last year, and when we went to Lod for a program about building peace in that place, and I visited places outside Jerusalem as well–we came away with images of great beauty (the Old City is simply a jewel shining in the sun) and an abiding sense of tension and insecurity. We felt the tension for days after we returned to the United States.
I fear for Israel. I fear for Palestine (which does not exist as an actual state, something it is easy to forget). The pathology of ever-repeating violence pervades all. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks of an Us and Them dualism that runs counter to the three great monotheistic religions, and yet is threaded through each.
Even the beautiful Israeli settlements–making gardens bloom in the desert–overlook areas of Palestinian deprivation. The tension is palpable, if you look, if you are willing to see.
I have no answers, yet there must be answers. Things can not go on like this.
When Jonathan and I get into an argument, and we can get pretty ugly at times, eventually each of us has to crawl back from the flashpoint to acknowledge what went wrong, to admit our part in the failure of living side by side in peace.
The only thing I know to do is to get on my knees, making repentance for what I have done that does not serve peace and what I have not done that would serve peace.
I can hear many of my friends say, “Well, if they (the other side, whoever it is), get on their knees, then we will, too. But they have to stop the violence first.”
There is the pathology: it’s the other guy. Always the other. Kill the Jews! Kill the Arabs!
War never solves pathology, it just gives it new outlets and new justifications.
A dear friend sent me a graphic (see right) that has gone viral on the internet. I know the people who designed it mean to help. I know my friend means to help, too.
Sadly, however, I think it makes matters worse–not least because it is a high-jacking of a campaign by another aggrieved group in another part of the world, namely African Americans who are tired of being the targets of police and social violence.
And it harms because it implies, in this context, that Palestinian lives do not matter. More Palestinians are killed in any given year than Israelis. More Palestinians are forced from land and homes than Israelis. The Israeli Defense Force and police are far more efficient and powerful than their Palestinian counterparts.
I can hear friends reply that the campaign Black Lives Matter seems to say that White Lives Do Not Matter. Or that it should say All Lives Matter (which is what so many wanted to say in response to Black Lives Matter).
The problem is power. It always is. Nearly always, one side or the other has greater power.
My mentioning arguments between Jonathan and me is misleading in one sense: there is no real power differential between us. We both have roughly equal power at any given moment.
But African Americans know that in this country whiteness dominates. We do not need signs saying “White Lives Matter” because our entire social structure reinforces that every day.
It is not dissimilar in Israel and Palestine. Clearly, the Israeli government, and its security forces, generally have the upper hand. For example, it is only the Prime Minister of Israel who can decree that Palestinians may not enter the Old City for 48 hours–what in this country would be considered racial profiling of the worst kind.
I do not intend any of this to absolve Palestinians from responsibility for murders they commit, for violence enacted on the streets. I do not absolve the Palestinian Authority of incompetence and great dereliction of duty over the decades. And of course, Israeli lives matter.
But I do know who still has the upper hand.
Yet I fear for Israel. To live in the constant state of fear is to invite ever greater militarization, ever greater extremism. This will not protect the City of Peace, even as it may satisfy the desire for vengeance and some sort of order.
Palestinians people are going this route, I fear, out of desperation; when you see no hope, then despair takes over. They do not have the armaments, however, to take charge. And much of the current violence seems sporadic and disorganized–we are not yet, yet, at a new Intifada.
Israel does have the armaments, including nuclear weapons. It matters how they use their advantages. Sadly, I am not convinced that the current government, nor clearly many of its allies, understand that with great power comes great responsibility.
Until that changes, I expect the City of Peace will feel too much like the City of War.