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I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Humanity enough

“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” 
 Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

I wrote to my Rabbi this morning. It was easier to write to him than, say, to write a "Dear God" letter, or worse, "Dear diary." But I had to write, because I am so disheartened, so saddened and sickened by the events that seem to have consumed us,  moving rough shod in a random swath of destruction and hatred and death. Here, in part, is what I wrote:

I hate what has been happening in Boston. It makes me ill, to think of this kind of carnage and innocence and hatred and loss, all rolled up together into a messy, bloody heap. Like so many, I feel impotent and aggrieved and disheartened and uplifted by the events. Heroism is such a transcendantal moment: offers of comfort to complete strangers, running one way rather than another, all of it.

It is this mounting blood-thirsty quest for vengeance that makes me shudder again, though. And it is blood thirsty: Kill them. I hope they die. Catch them and kill them. Again and again, I hear it-- not even whispered, not even a hesitant question. Just: Let me see them bloody and dead.

Is our sense of justice, and tolerance, and (for many of my friends) inflatable? So: the death penalty is a bad thing, except when we're really angry? Or scared? Tolerance is demanded, except when we need to be intolerant? I do not condone the actions of these two men. And really-- they have been tried and found guilty in our heads, in our hands-- they have not been convicted in a court of law. Isn't that supposed to mean something?

I am NOT saying these were innocent. I don't know if they were, could only guess. But my heart is breaking nonetheless. Yes, there should be justice-- but have we suddenly made a weird turn somewhere and landed back 2500 years ago-- an eye for an eye justice? Is that what we want? Is that really justice?

I'm simple, perhaps. And quite naive. And terrified to say what I really feel about all of this, for fear of instant castigation. But I always thought that goodness and justice and love and all that crap should cover all the bases, even when -- especially when -- it makes you uncomfortable and angry and sad. But all I hear right about now, is this salacious and triumphant howl of victory over more dead bodies. I guess, it's just the right bodies that are lifeless right now...

There is a quote from Gandhi that has been making its rounds on facebook over the last week, about evil individuals and the mass of decency and humanity. I quoted Anne Frank (above), reiterating her belief in the basic goodness of people, even as she hid in fear of the mob that was howling outside her door, thirsting for her blood and her death. And make no mistake, her pursuers were absolutely convinced of her guilt, of their righteousness. She was an animal to be hunted, vermin to be exterminated. She was not human.

It was Hillel who asked us to strive to be human in a place where there are no humans.

I saw the face of that terrorist, in the news feeds on my computer, and during the sound bytes on every erstwhile news program on television. That terrorist; that boy. He is not too much older than my son. I hear the howls for his blood. For his death. The cries for vengeance to be paid for the death he brought to innocents. The deaths that we are convinced he wrought. Did he? Did he commit these acts of terror and atrocity? I don’t know, with 100% certainty, that he did. As I said—we can guess, but that boy’s voice is lost forever. Who knows, perhaps, had he been captured, he would have spewed hatred and invective and confession for those horrific acts. But I cannot say for absolutely certain that he would have, and that will haunt me for a very long time.

There is a midrash, a story that our rabbis tell, about the rejoicing and jubilation that God’s angels made, when the waters of the parted Sea crashed over the Egyptians who pursued the children of Israel in their flight from slavery into freedom. The angels danced at the death and destruction, laughed as those Egyptian soldiers and taskmasters drowned, and hard-hearted Pharaoh was no more. They celebrated – until the Angel of Death silenced them with a cry of anger and pain that went all the way to God’s very center, to God’s very heart. “Why do you rejoice?” God cried out. The idolaters are dead!  replied the Angels. And God’s Angel wept, saying “Are they not God’s children, too?”

There are no easy answers. Terrorism and violence must be eradicated. But we cannot accomplish this at the expense of our humanity. We must not, or what will we have become? 

In a place where there are no humans, let us all strive to be human...