Kaddish- for the mourners

vigilOn Monday of this week, I attended a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. 150-200 people attended on a cold fall day and crowded into a small gathering place on a busy street corner in Duluth. There were chants and songs and prayers along with speeches from local community leaders. I spoke as a person whose sister was murdered by bullets. Our Mayor spoke and my minister as well as a local elder from the NAACP. Many from the local Jewish community were there as well and expressed such sadness and mourning for the anti-Semitic attack on their brothers and sisters of faith.

It has been 26 years since my sister was shot. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday. The memories come and go as does the pain and the grief. I don’t cry much any more when speaking. But when the leader of the Synagogue asked us to sing and pray Kaddish for the dead and told us to think of our own losses, I cried. That moment was so emotional and powerful and almost haunting.

The vigil was testament to the solidarity we all feel when attacks come against one group of people because of anti-Semitism or racism or anti-GLBTQ or anti-abortion, or anti-Christianity or just because.

Following on the heels of the pipe bomb threats to high profile Democrats it felt like something was terribly wrong.

And predictably, the President said these words after the mass shooting at the synagogue:

When asked if the shooting indicated a need to revisit gun laws, Trump replied that the shooting “has little to do with it” and that an armed guard might have been able to stop the gunman “immediately.”
Asked if he was advocating for armed guards inside of places of worship, Trump replied, “no, it’s certainly an option.”

These are corporate gun lobby words that mean nothing. Rarely has someone who is armed stopped a mass shooting. In this case, the synagogue often did have armed guards as has become necessary for many synagogues in the current atmosphere in our country. But that is different than arming worshipers. If we have to go to our places of worship with guns,  then we have lost our freedom to worship in peace and tranquility.

I did speak with the person at our church in charge of building issues. He told me that we do have an evacuation plan just in case but we haven’t paid a lot of attention to it. I think it’s time to talk about this but it won’t involve weapons.

Something is terribly wrong. There is no way of avoiding the obvious. Hatred and fear of the “other” is increasing in intensity and promoted by hate groups and some of our very own leaders. The President is at the top of the heap of this fear. At the moment, in a ploy to drive his base to the polls, he has dangerously and cynically decided to issue an unconstitutional order to deny citizenship based on birth rites. The country awaits the fall-out from this ludicrous idea.

On top of that the President said on national TV that he intends to deploy 10,000-15,000 troops to our border to stop the “invasion”, as he has pronounced it, from the south. Thousands of refugees are peacefully walking towards the Mexican border from Honduras where they are afraid to live in their own country.

The Honduran migrants headed northward as part of a massive caravan are fleeing for different reasons — rank poverty, gang threats and a globalized economy that left them behind. They’re so desperate, they told me, they’re willing to gamble on a dangerous trip.

It is families with children and people of all ages and yet, the President claims these poor people are gang members and criminals and maybe a few Middle Easterners thrown in for good measure to frighten us all to death.

I am daily horrified and disgusted by this anger and fear. It should not be this way. I may be naive but I really do believe that we are better than this. Any common sense about this kind of rhetoric has flown away into thin air. We need it back.

Can we get our nation back? Can we have a calm and peaceful national conversation about any of this? As the election grows closer, the rhetoric grows more and more coarse. The ghouls of Halloween are with us every day now.

We should be praying and singing Kaddish for our country. My friend, Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, has written this piece for City Pages:

Our kids know anti-Semitism is real and it concerns them. They see it through the lens of understanding police brutality against unarmed African American men, the attacks on trans people and Muslims and Native People and Latinx and migrants and those with disabilities. They recognize that none of us are free until all of us are free.

They know in their bones that the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh was absolutely an attack on the Jewish people—and was the same attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Our children know that unless and until we address bigotry and racism and hatred for all, none of us will be safe. (…) We—all of us—need one another. We are facing mighty waves of bigotry and violence, intolerance and cynicism. The way we will make it to shore—the way we will survive and thrive and build a community worthy of our children’s dreams—is to hold on to one another and swim to the shore, together.

We need each other and we also need a leader who can bring us together in these moments of violence and upheaval. We don’t have that leader. Who will do this? Who will fix this? When will it stop?

When will they ever learn?

When I spoke on Monday I read the words of former President Barack Obama which got to the core of the matter:

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Amen.

Post election musings

3d image Tolerance issues concept word cloud backgroundWell, I am finally coming out of my post election funk- at least for a while. I was among millions who were shocked and feeling numb after the election of Donald Trump. I know I am in my own bubble as are most people. We tend to socialize and communicate with people who think like us. To say this is a game changer is putting it mildly.

I need a reset in many ways. Not only did my candidate (s) lose, but I have been dealing with a major health crisis of a close family member. So I am feeling pretty out of sorts and in a fog after last week.

All of that aside though, there are a few things I need to say.

The NRA ( and corporate gun lobby) now have a seat in the White House. They spent a lot of money to get that seat. But then again, the NRA does not represent its’ own members. It represents the gun lobby and the gun industry. 74% of NRA members believe what I believe about background checks.  But this is not about the people in spite of what Donald Trump fooled his supporters into believing. It’s about power and control and greed. Follow the money.

The gun lobby did not win everywhere they spent money, however and several gun safety reform measures left to the voters to decide, passed. Washington state,  Nevada and California passed stronger gun laws.  In Nevada a referendum requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales passed (see linked article) and a similar measure almost passed in Maine. Most of the time when voters are asked directly they want stronger gun laws. Voters are not beholden to the corporate gun lobby.

My own Congressman Rick Nolan won in spite of massive spending by the NRA against him. Others won re-election or election running unafraid of the gun lobby.

Interestingly sales of guns and ammunition started dropping right after Trump was elected. What’s that about? No more need to hate the government and be prepared to fight against it? No more need for self defense from zombies that look like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Confidence that guns will not be taken even if they wouldn’t have been anyway? No more fear of the “other”?

Never mind common sense.

Let’s look at the above linked article:

Before the election, “there was a widespread expectation that Hillary would win and some gun retailers began to stock up, expecting strong demand surge from the prospect of tightening gun control under a Hillary Clinton administration,” said Rommel Dionisio, a gun industry analyst for Wunderlich Securites.

“Obviously, that’s not going to happen,” he said. Now that Trump will be president and Republicans will control both houses of Congress, he said demand for guns will probably drop over the next year or two.

Go figure. What’s good for the goose is evidently not so good for the gander.

So far there have been no politically motivated shootings as were threatened if Hillary Clinton won the election. I wrote about this fear in my last postBut one anti-Trump protester did issue some threatening words. This is not OK. There should be no talk about using violence and threatening to kill people over elections from either side of the issue or the aisle. In America, because of the sheer number of guns and people with guns, it could actually happen.

As much as I do not like Donald Trump, I urge people on both sides to put aside talk like this and think about their words. Words matter. Trump knows that because he used all kinds of incendiary words during the election. He made a lot of promises and stoked a lot of fear. Already, he is making noises about walking back some of his promises but the fear he stoked is now a part of our political culture in a way it never was before.

The NRA was right there with him and have been for years in spite of Trump’s support for common sense gun legislation before he became a candidate and had to curry favor with the gun lobby.

So now, Trump has joined with the corporate gun lobby in his statements during the campaign to incite fear and anger. This incendiary and fear filled language has made gun toting Americans afraid of their own shadows. This article from The Trace explains:

It was a pitch that found a welcome audience among Americans primed by years of bilious NRA rhetoric. Rage at elites has long been the crucial context for the organization’s gun rights message, the force it has used to mobilize its membership. It’s not just that gun rights must be protected, NRA leaders argue — it’s that they must be defended from political leaders and journalists who have contempt for everyday people’s values and ideas of how America should look.

“Something has gone terribly wrong in our country,” the group’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, said at its 2012 annual meeting, held in St. Louis. “Almost every aspect of American freedom is in some state of decline.” The NRA alone, he declared, stood ready to lead the fight against tyranny imposed by the “global elitists and all their friends in the White House” who were conspiring to “hide the truth we all know in our gut.” Of course, LaPierre sniped, “No politician in any party will tell you that.”

Don’t trust anyone.

And since the NRA is well funded by the gun industry, they were able to spend a boat load of money in this election. More from the above article:

What has gone less noticed is how the group has succeeding in stoking populist furor that spills well beyond the people on its email list.

“Both the NRA and Trump promote a nostalgia for something that has been lost,” sociologist Scott Melzer, author of the 2012 book Gun Crusaders: The NRA’s Culture War, tells The Trace. The gun group and its candidate speak to “this white rural conservative population that feels left behind by economic shifts and cultural shifts. These changes pose a threat to their identity.”

Melzer says the NRA has figured out how to mobilize people by fostering a sense that they are threatened by outsiders. “That makes them the most effective social force in conservatism, and they’ve done so with language that Trump used,” he said. The NRA seized on this rhetoric to fuel its interest group politics.

Trump brought it to the larger arena of mainstream politics, then rode it to the Oval Office. (…)

By the Friday before the election, Clinton was considered the overwhelming favorite to win the White House. That morning, the NRA issued a familiar call to its millions of members: Vote for Trump not just to protect gun rights, but to stick it to the establishment.

Yup. The establishment. Who are they? If Donald Trump isn’t part of a certain kind of establishment, who is? Those who voted for Trump were fooled into believing lies and deceptions.

Part of my healing after the election was to spend time with fellow grievers. I knew I would find some at my church. What I found were people concerned about issues of peace and justice, the environment, racism, GLBTQ, violence, intolerance and those things Christians ( at least the ones in my church) care about. I was reassured that many groups and individuals in my church and my community are still planning to work hard to make sure hate doesn’t trump love and tolerance.

I am concerned about some local school students involved in racial slurs and hate speech. Who are the role models for our children? If we have a national bully sitting in the Oval Office, how can expect our children to aspire to better ways of doing thing and respecting their fellow students? If we have a President who surrounds himself with and listens to white nationalists and hate groups ( David Duke, KKK and others) how can we expect our kids and adults as well to respect their fellow human beings?

Calls have been made for Trump to step up to a microphone and speak to the nation to calm the unrest and intolerance. Marches and protests are taking place all over America, including in my own small city. People need to be reassured that Trump’s administration will not operate like his campaign did. If it does the country will be less safe and more unstable. That never leads to good things.

A friend in church who adopted a child from Tibet when she was a baby told me that her daughter, now a college student in Washington state, called home scared of how she would be treated. Her daughter thought maybe should buy some pepper spray for her safety since she was now fearing a backlash against students who look like her.

These are frightening times for your youth and our children. The fear extends to adults as well. We are better than this. We must be for our children and grandchildren. And when fear is felt by both sides for different reasons, it may not lead to peace and civil order. But some students are joining the protests against a Trump presidency and what it will mean for their future.

This gives me hope.

We absolutely need common sense now more than ever. Gun violence prevention groups nationally and at the state level will be fighting battles to loosen gun laws that need to be strengthened instead. People will still be shot- Republicans and Democrats alike and our national public health epidemic will not get better if we don’t take measures to stem the tide of violence. Civility does not come at the end of a gun barrel so making it easier for anyone to access guns will not result in safer and more civil communities.

The idea that armed citizens who are not trained to carry loaded guns on our streets and are barely vetted to do so should alarm us all. But in Trump country, this is what we will have. Please read this if you think we will all be safer. From the article:

Advocates analogize their preferred system of “reciprocity” to drivers’ licenses, which are issued by individual states but accepted by all 50. But this comparison elides how disparate the standards for concealed-carry licenses are from state-to-state — and the fact that, in ten states, you can carry a gun with no license at all.

It’s not clear whether a national reciprocity law would completely gut local gun restrictions. While the legislation would allow out-of-state visitors to flout local firearm laws, advocates for gun control remain hopeful that state governments would retain the power to enforce more stringent regulations on their own residents. The challenge there would be to block any workaround that might allow a New York City resident to take a trip to Virginia, secure a permit, and come home with a legal handgun in tow.

If that isn’t enough for us all to digest, think about the fact that a man who is in charge of one of our nation’s most right wing publications, Breitbart News, will be whispering into the ear of our next President. When White nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan and other alt-right and militia type groups are in charge of our country, it’s time to think about who we are as a country. Groups concerned about anti-semitic sentiments are concerned as they should be.

The Southern Poverty Law Center will be a watchdog and sounding the alarm if things go the way they are hoping it won’t. Read here:

But it’s not just sieg-heiling Nazis and cross-burning Klansmen who should trouble Americans concerned about what a Trump victory portends. It’s also the more polite, suit-wearing extremists who move in mainstream political circles and already have their nose under the Trump tent.

They’re people like Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who birthed the viciously discriminatory, unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws enacted by Arizona, Alabama and other states several years ago; and Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state who is now a senior fellow at the rabidly anti-LGBT  Family Research Council. Both are reportedly serving as key members of Trump’s transition team.

As is customary, Trump has pledged to be a president “for all Americans.”

Will we have a President who stands up to hate, extremism, fear mongering, violence and intolerance?

Time will tell.

This is not the country most people voted for. Hillary won the popular vote by almost 2 million votes.

#Enough.