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weeds don't die

08/18/2022 09:20:12 AM

Aug18

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Have you ever pulled at a pesky weed that showed up in your garden, only to be frustrated when all you get is a handful of greens, the root remaining deep in the soil? Only by carefully excising the root can you actually remove it. H is the root that we are unable to excise, with speech and violent acts the green top. We try to remove the weed, but the root of H goes deep into American soil. We only snap off the top of the root, with the base firmly entrenched and ready to grow again.

We are fully immersed in the newest election cycle, and the rhetoric has reached new depths of dismay. There is no debate, no intelligent discourse around a point of view. For too many people, if you disagree with them you are evil and should not exist. But it is not merely the way people speak about other people, it is the fact that their H speech becomes the fuel that leads to threats and even acts of violence. I experienced threatening emails myself, and understand how intimidating they can be. When people bully other people into silence because they disagree with that person’s remarks or actions, then reasoned discourse and democracy itself becomes a victim.

The year was 1858. Stephen Douglas was the Democratic incumbent US Senator from Illinois. Abraham Lincoln was the Republican nominee. The two engaged in a series of seven debates between August 21 and October 15. Abraham Lincoln accused Sen. Douglas of wanting to nationalize slavery, and Sen. Douglas accused Lincoln of being an abolitionist. The debates were heated at times, but civility reigned as both men eloquently made their points to the public. If you are interested in reading more about the debates, the text and analysis can be found here: https://digital.lib.niu.edu/illinois/lincoln/topics/lincolndouglas

The Civil War began 2 ½ years later when Confederate troops fired upon Fort Sumter in Charleston on April 12, 1861, as civil discourse devolved into a war of economics. It is rather interesting to note that Tree of Life was founded in June 1864, nearly one year before the conclusion of the Civil War.

If there is one adjective that cannot be used during the current election cycle, it is the word “civil”. Civility has not taken a back seat to incivility, it was tossed out of the car, left along the side of the road with the detritus of life. I wonder, as I’m sure many of you do, if there is any remedy, something that will restore civility. While it would be foolish to predict anything, nevertheless we must demand of all people running for elective office that they not only uphold the highest moral standards, which must include refraining from any H speech, but they must condemn H speech firmly and regularly. It is not unreasonable to expect that our elected officials model civility, decency, and goodness. We have permitted them to lower the bar through our silence. Only when the Silent Majority becomes the Vocal Majority and demands the highest levels of deportment will we begin to notice any change. Until that time, the lowest common denominator will be ever-present.

Wed, September 28 2022 3 Tishrei 5783