This has been a very difficult week. 50 massacred in their mosque in New Zealand, none of whom went to pray on Friday with the thought that this would be his or her last day on Earth. So many families, let alone their community and the entire country, were devastated. The next day on Shabbat, synagogues across New Zealand closed in solidarity. In Atlanta as elsewhere people expressed their shock and their support via fundraisers, community gatherings, flowers, letters; this is how we say Islamophobia has no place here. New Zealand itself has not only condemned the hateful act but has already pledged to help pay the costs of each victim’s funeral and to revisit and tighten the country’s gun laws.
When I think about this, as well as about increasing global antisemitism, and about the bias towards blacks, minorities, immigrants, and so many more groups I am brought back to the very first blog I wrote,” I read the news and my heart hurts,” after the Charlottesville march in which I explained why people hate and what privilege is.
But all the explanations aren’t going to change anything until everyone begins to treat others the way he or she wants to be treated.
In another very early blog, “Us vs. Them,” I touched on why it is important to get past categorizing those you don’t know and instead focusing on finding what makes different individuals from different spaces the same.
In Australia, in the aftermath of the attack, one senator pouted venomous hatred towards Muslims. He was later egged by a teenager and actually slapped him. The country’s Prime Minister took a much loftier tack. After announcing that a significant amount of money would be spent on security upgrades for mosques and other places of worship, he addressed hatred, what he called “mindless tribalism.”
As I read his words, the stark contrast between him and the President of the United States was made all the more clear. “If we allow a culture of ‘us and them’, of tribalism, to take hold; if we surrender an individual to be defined not by their own unique worth and contribution but by the tribe they are assigned to, if we yield to the compulsion to pick sides rather than happy coexistence, we will lose what makes diversity work in Australia.”
The rest of Prime Minister Morrison’s words are worth reproducing. Substitute the name of whatever country you live in for Australia:
“Reading only news that we agree with, interacting with people only we agree with, and having less understanding and grace towards others that we do not even know, making the worst possible assumptions about them and their motives, simply because we disagree with them.
“This is true of the left and the right. And even more so from those shouting from the fringes to a mainstream of quiet Australians that just want to get on with their lives.
“Hate, blame and contempt are the staples of tribalism, it is consuming modern debate, egged on by an appetite for conflict as entertainment, not so different from the primitive appetites of the colosseum days, with a similar corrosive impact on the fabric of our society.
“It ends in the worst of places. Last week it ended the lives of 50 fellow human beings, including children praying in Christchurch.”
If only his worlds were being heard in the halls of the White House and Congress – or anywhere else: “Our fundamental belief (is) that one Australian does not have to fail for another to succeed, of rejecting the politics of conflict and division, we can best continue to bring Australians together, to reinforce the social fabric so important to our economic success and security as a nation.
“We will continue to engage in strengthening this social fabric – in finding a bigger place for ‘us’ and a smaller place for the idea of ‘them’.”
So, where can we go from here? Even if a person isn’t ready for the self-introspection required to understand his or her own misplaced need to diminish others , he or she should understand this: there is room for all of us to pursue happiness at the same time. It is time to put aside ill will and instead adopt the desire to want good for all of us.