A survivor’s plea — spread light and reach outward
Guest columnist

A survivor’s plea — spread light and reach outward

Peaceful coexistence and exercise of freedom and liberty is not achieved by strong-arming. It is achieved by welcoming everyone and working together.

A vigil outside the Tree of Life building. (Photo by Jim Busis)
A vigil outside the Tree of Life building. (Photo by Jim Busis)

Thank you to all those who are asking how we are doing after our praying spaces were attacked with us in them. We cannot fully describe how we are doing, but we are surrounded with love and support, and we live in a city filled with sweet and wonderful people, in a country that is still free, in a world that is rather incredibly good at expressing care. Our wide circle of friends is expanding, holding us up. And some of us have been given a gift of continued life.

So to tend the flames of those we lost, we are collecting ourselves to try to go on. Still, every time we pull up one strand of the fabric of our lives, another hits the ground; we are not yet solid, and repair will be slow. We lost so many wonderful persons all at once. And so senselessly. Had it been a bus accident or a plane crash that took them all at once, it would have been just as sorrowful. But this loss is dirtied by hate and fear and horror and anger. This loss was not an accident. Our friends were killed because they were actively being Jews.

Anyone who hates so broadly has to have been taught to hate. We are not born hating, we learn it, along with selfishness, prejudice, fear of the unknown and violence. And then, it seems, we teach it to others.

There is no one group to blame for the ills of society — not the Jews, not the immigrants, not the Muslims, not any race, nor any religion, not the feminists, nor any gender, not the liberals, not the extremists, nor even any political party or ideology.

We are collectively responsible for what is wrong and what is right. Yet, once any of us expresses an irrational hatred of a subgroup of “we,” and teaches the hatred to our children and others around us, that seed takes root for further generations of blame. And it grows into a poisonous weed that spurs people to violence against innocent people. It creates bullies who believe they must demonstrate that they are the strongest, that they have a mandate to beat up everyone else so they can prove their superiority.

We all recognize bullying speech and actions, the “I hate you so you must die” mentality.

Everyone, just stop teaching hate. Stop laying blame at someone else’s feet. Stop saying stupid jokes about races and ethnicities. Stop making hurtful stereotypes. Stop using veiled references in advertisements. Stop generalizing about groups of individuals. Stop using the bully pulpit to bully. Stop all the rhetoric and action that incites bullying. Just stop.

And let’s stop arming maniacs with military weapons. We just cannot watch more innocent people die. I can’t watch one more innocent person die.

It is not a matter of being prepared to defend. We do not coddle bullies by slugging back. We should not have to arm the innocent to do harm in the name of safety. The victim is not to blame for not having military defenses ready in the course of everyday life.

We cannot place armed guards 24/7 at the doors of our praying spaces (nor our schools). We can’t afford that expense: Most religious institutions have trouble managing just to keep the roof from leaking and the heat turned on. And then what? The next step would be building walls around our movie theaters and supermarkets and coffee shops. And our homes.

In fact, building walls anywhere for “protection” does not keep us safe, it keeps us isolated. It fosters the belief that freedom and liberty is somehow only for the privileged class and not for all who want it. This is not about “defense.”

We are a world filled with prejudiced individuals. Some of them are the self-important bullies who look at life as a playground in which only the strong can win. Some of them are dangerous, filled with hate and misinformation.

Peaceful coexistence and exercise of freedom and liberty is not achieved by strong-arming. It is achieved by welcoming everyone and working together to understand the space needed to let life and liberty flourish through inter-dependency. There is room for everyone.

Bullies always lose in a good society. We have to push that to begin to happen now. America has yet to be “great” in that regard.

Yes, anyone who hates so broadly has been taught. For thousands of years this hate has been directed at the Jews, and we teach our children to expect it, and to watch for hate when it threatens others as well and to act against it. We also teach children that we have been given the gift of knowledge and enlightenment and the ability to work to understand, and we must nurture the light and spread it toward the good of the world. And against the bullies. PJC

Audrey Glickman, a member of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha and a resident of Squirrel Hill, was leading prayer services when the Oct. 27 attack began.

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