Thursday, February 18, 2016

When Did We Lose our Sense of Reason?

I live in the city that goes by the moniker of “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.” I live in a country that is touted as being “One Nation under God.” I am fiercely committed to Israel, which daily tries to figure out how to simultaneously be a Jewish State and a democracy, validating and embracing all of its citizens in as inclusive a manner as possible. My family and I are part of the world of LGBTQ community members generally and in the Jewish world specifically as well. Clearly, acceptance and inclusion are at the heart of this community, as it needs to be and should be.

Yet, in Israel I have to watch the antics of the Hilltop Youth and other extremists and radicalists who do not believe in dialoguing and negotiating and in listening to the other, not following more Jewish dictates than I can count; but would rather destroy and destruct in the name of whatever they claim is their right. In the United States I watch a battle that pits citizens against citizens and threatens to compromise the ability of the Supreme Court to act on behalf of the citizenry in whom it is invested. And then there is the Creating Change fiasco, where Israeli organizations that work for LGBTQ inclusion were maligned, protested against, thrown out of programming and the resulting bad feelings all around continue to be palpable. I myself have been part of LGBTQ groupings as an ally for decades and there have definitely been instances where as an Orthodox Jew who is a long term ally (before anyone even used the term) and now a parent of my wonderful children, I was the subject of assumptions, prejudice and even, hatred. These moments and incidents are so sad and disheartening. At present, I am working for inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in the Orthodox community but another element of this work is to work towards acceptance of LGBTQ Jews who are Orthodox in the general Jewish and general LGBTQ community.

I am greatly concerned. There are so many battles that have been hard fought, so many alliances that need to be protected and amplified, and in the middle of this, there is too much contention and a lack of willingness to compromise and work cooperatively. When and how did this happen and why is this dynamic so pervasive in different aspects of our reality? When did radicalism and extremism become the preferred way to be regardless of what one believes, whether one is a conservative or liberal, Orthodox Jew or Secular Humanist? This is simply NOT what we are taught in our constitution, in our Holy Writ, or by the example of our past generations. Too many of us are just shaking our heads trying to figure out what has gone so terribly wrong in the past twenty to thirty years. Too many times, there are incidents such as the Creating Change situation (Here is one of several articles on this ) or the angry outbursts we have seen increasingly throughout our world that are disruptive of the efforts of those of us who work so hard to build bridges and to join hands for shared causes.

We all know the dynamic of the left moving further to the left and the right moving further to the right, but what about those of us in the reasonable middle who do believe in talking, negotiating, and working with each other to make our world a better place? How do we insure that what we have held so dear for so long is not destroyed? Thinking of the many cooperative efforts between Israelis and Palestinians where there is meaningful dialogue and caring conversations; the interfaith efforts that bring all people of faith to a place where we reconfirm that there is so much more that unites us than anything that divides us; the relationships that have developed between children and grandchildren of victims and perpetrators of horrible and destructive chapters of history such as the Holocaust, I often have great reason for hope. Then I try to listen to Presidential debates. Really? When did we forget how to speak with each other?

Justice Antonin Scalia died less than a week ago. So many stories have come out about friendships and respect across political, ideological and many other lines and the high regard in which he was held and showed toward others. I remember the wonderful friendships past Presidents, Senators, and Congressmen speak of nostalgically regarding each other, including recent memories shared by Senator George Mitchell. Words like honest, respectful, caring and intelligent are often used by this generation of leaders when they speak of their peers. What words will we hear as retrospectives from what we are witnessing today?

In our lives today where too many people have forgotten the value of dialogue, that none of us knows everything and has so much to learn from each other and that respect and regard is one of the most powerful things that make us uniquely human, I suspect we will continue to be subjected to name calling and immaturity on the part of Presidential hopefuls, groups that work so hard to make our world a better place being thrown out of spaces in which they belong and sadly, a loss of the sense of human dignity and reason we are all enjoined to share with each other as part of our world community. That makes me sad!

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