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ruffles and flourishes

07/14/2022 07:57:46 AM

Jul14

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I had the privilege, along with my wife Janice, to attend an event on the lawn of the White House this past Monday, at the invitation of the President of the United States. Coming not that soon after having had the privilege of a private conversation with the Vice President and the Second Gentleman, it has been an incredible thirty days. At the White House, we heard from Dr. Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician from Uvalde, who shared a bit of his painful experiences of the past month. We heard from Garnell Whitfield, Jr., whose mother was gunned down in a grocery store in Buffalo. Both are part of a daily expanding group that should never exist: victims of a mass shooting. Their personal testimony, interspersed with the remarks of the Vice President at this event, cemented what everyone in attendance already knew: the madness must stop.

President Biden spoke forcefully for twenty minutes about the physical and emotional toll on all of America, well-represented by the number of people in attendance. Janice and I had the privilege to sit next to Rev. Martin Luther King III, the son of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The fact that Congress was able to pass bipartisan legislation was a momentary break from its normal state of affairs, and something to celebrate, but it is only a small start. The President spoke of additional steps that he deemed necessary for the safety and security of all Americans, as he quoted the words “domestic tranquility”, which is supposed to be guaranteed to all Americans as written in the Preamble to the Constitution.

I recognize, as no doubt the President does as well, that, while preaching to the choir can be an uplifting, reassuring and encouraging experience, it is simply insufficient. The great challenge is to reach those who do not belong to the choir and do not want to hear the choir’s performance. I share the frustration of so many who do not merely wish for change, but demand so to eliminate gun violence and create a place where our children can attend school and feel safe, people can pray in their houses of worship and feel safe, and people can shop in the grocery market and feel safe. Until that time, the change is insufficient.  

The United States has witnessed at least 314 mass shootings so far this year, and the toll on the mental health of not only those immediately impacted, but other communities who now are forced to relive their own trauma on a daily basis, greatly concerns me. We are creating a society of permanently traumatized residents: children afraid to go to school; worshippers afraid to go to pray; concertgoers afraid to attend an outdoor concert. We need moments that remind us of hope; where does hope come from? I will continue to seek inspiration for those moments and share freely. I remain a hopeful person.

Thu, September 29 2022 4 Tishrei 5783