Interrupting the Sorrow

Tree of Life - Or L'Simcha Congregation exterior, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
Tree of Life - Or L'Simcha Congregation exterior, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA

When I was Orthodox, we had several friends, who, as it turned out, owned AR-15 assault weapons. Some owned more than a dozen. When I learned this, I ended the friendships.

The Trump lovers’ anti-Soros rhetoric that has been percolating for some time is anti-Semitic. When it was repeated by Jews, it was still anti-Semitic. Of course it lead to a bomb. All those sick rallies. Of course they led to bombs.

Charlottesville was a preview to today. I wrote a series of blogs about it last year.

Yet, I know Jews who agreed with Trump in not condemning the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. ‘Cause the left.

The things we were sure about growing up, the clear lines, the idea that we knew where we stood as Jews. Those days are gone. Say farewell and Kaddish. We are not united.

Even now, rabbis in ultra-Orthodox synagogues are preparing sermons to blame the mass shooting in Pittsburgh on the Reconstructionist and Conservative Jews, and some will throw the Reform Jews in for good measure. They will blame the victims, not the hatred. I’ve heard this song and dance too many times before.

I am somewhat unique as a Jewish woman in that I have actively lived and studied Judaism as a Reconstructionist Jew, a Conservative Jew, a Kabbalistic Jew, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, an Orthodox Jew, a Modern Orthodox Jew, and a Reform Jew. In religion, literature, and spirituality, at heart, the mystical is where my soul lives.

I see the world through a lens of connectivity. I see the threads that connect both ideas and people. I cannot unsee the correlations.

The shooter was anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, racist, and misogynist.

People may not realize this shooting is Patriarchy, but it is. Patriarchy always demands and thrives on having a victim. The victim must be blamed and vengeance against the victim must ultimately be enacted.

Even as we saw this tragedy unfold today, as we saw bombs flying through the mail this week to target liberals, the media, blacks, women, and Jews… Julie Swetnick, niece of prominent Jewish feminist, Helene Mogden, is under a different kind of attack. The Senate Conservative men have referred her to the DOJ because she dared to accuse beer-loving Kavanaugh of participating in gang rape parties. She must be castigated, and criminalized.

The victim is demonized for attempting to say out loud to the public that she was violently gang raped and abused. But men in power insist she must be lying. And if women aren’t lying, they’re confused. Our truth, our questions must not be permitted. We are always to blame and we must be punished.

We women, we Jews, we blacks, we immigrants, we children – we are at fault, according to Patriarchy. The President of the United States has blamed a synagogue for not defending itself better during a baby naming ceremony.

We dressed wrong, looked the wrong way, practiced the wrong religion, lived in the wrong neighborhood, were too smart, too loud, too quiet, drove to slow, too fast, held the wrong hand, held our hand up too long, aspired to too much. We didn’t hire the right gunmen.

Where have Jews heard the litany of accusations before? Where have women heard this tune before? Where have blacks heard this number before? Where have the LGBTQ community heard this refrain? Where did immigrants dare to dream of freedom?

Since over 40 million women in America are sexually assaulted – that we know of, should there be armed guards everywhere? At every party, on every campus, at every company holiday party and corporate conference? In the subways, in the streets, at playgrounds, in pre-schools? In churches and synagogues, in all places of worship? What of the hidden crimes being committed daily in these spaces?

And what of the parents and babies at the Border? Who is protecting them?

We see the shootings. But too much else is hidden.

In 1975 Joni Mitchell wrote, Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow… Be polite. Her feminist lyrics have proven current, heartbreakingly so, nearly half a century later.

Joni Mitchell album covert art for The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Art created by Joni Mitchell. “Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow” written by Joni Mitchell.

We Jews, we people of all religions, we many humans with compassion, with empathy, with moral values, we are the problem.

We women, we radical women who dare to tell our truths, dare to ask our questions, dare to interrupt. After all that has befallen us, been perpetrated against us, we do in fact persist. We are everywhere. We tell our stories.

While these men and boys with uncontrollable rage and hatred, they spew vitriol. They physically intimidate and hurt and verbally abuse and stalk and harass and punch. And when that is not satisfying enough for them, they open fire.

The world is not as it once was. The world is as it always was. We are floating above the melee and under the sea, grabbing at empty air, trying to understand. Violence and rape and betrayal is aimed at our hearts.

We do not know who we can trust. Men who preach compassion do not include  women, in real life, in real time. Women and men who profess feminism, stand down in silence when it counts. Rabbis and Ministers and Pastors forget the vulnerable for expedience, or worse. Cruelty and evil enter through our halls. Leaders who spout platitudes and moral declarations, refuse to take action. Black boys are shot dead by police and we raise our hands, what to do? Babies are abused and we feel helpless – as intended. Children are shot at, and the answer is less love, more guns.

This shooting made us all stop in our tracks. America, we are the sorrow.

About the Author
Dana is a Jewish feminist, writer and poet. She is passionate about kindness, spirituality, the artist's voice, and speaking out for the vulnerable. She lives in New York.
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