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back from the precipice

01/06/2022 08:31:25 AM

Jan6

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

It is one year later. For those who do not recall, on this date one year ago, I witnessed something I never imagined possible in the United States: a resurrection to overturn the results of a democratic election. I cried as I watched fellow Americans break through glass to entire our nation’s Capitol building, as furniture was moved to block the doors so armed insurrectionists would not enter the Senate chambers while two security personnel had their weapons on the ready, as I saw elected representatives on their knees behind furniture cowering in fear, and, most offensively, a man wore a tee shirt with the words “Camp Auschwitz” emblazoned on the front. To me it is a day that shall live in infamy.

What have we learned from January 6, 2021? We learned that there is a great chasm in America, with no bridges. There are a great many topics in our country where this chasm exists, and if there are perchance any bridges, they are the least-traveled roads. I do not think that we were always this way, but rather, have devolved to this. I’ve spoken and written before about the dearth of civil discourse, as discourse sinks ever lower towards uncivility. How many times have you witnessed or experienced an inability to have a polite conversation on a weighty topic? We cannot even play in the same sandboxes.

I’d like to think that the solutions are not as complex as they seem, but that does not appear to be the case. While I still profess that our commonalities unite us, and provide a starting point for where we disagree, one topic at a time, there are many who are unable to look past our disagreements to focus on our commonalities first. Many people believe that if you do not agree with them, then further engagement is worthless, regardless of the topic. The language of many has become far too emotion-laden, and alas, we know where that path leads: violence. Eliminating the H word from our vocabulary is more important now than ever, for then we tone down our speech, lower our blood pressure and respiration rate, and ease off the precipice that we teeter upon.

Has the pendulum swung as far as it can in the extreme? Is it ready to begin its journey back? Only time will tell is a pat answer that removes our involvement in the solution. Each of us must work even harder to eliminate H speech, to help guide others on the same calming path, to take a deep breath and take one pace back from that precipice.

The Psalms always offer an interesting perspective, if not potential solution. We have regularly read the following verse in Psalm 23 without giving it a thought: You prepare a banquet for me in the presence of my foes.  It is far more difficult to engage in acrimony when you sit down with someone that you might disagree with over a meal. Perhaps we need more one-on-one time over a meal, a beer, or a really good scotch? Take the time to listen to each other, agree to be civil, find ways to respect each other’s humanity, and work out a path forward together. For when you figure that out, the next-to-last line of the same Psalm comes to fruition: Surely goodness and kindness shall be my portion all the days of my life.

Sat, January 29 2022 27 Shevat 5782