Rabbi Irwin Wiener | Special to WJW
The history of hate extends beyond our understanding of time and space. From Cain killing Abel to the present day, we have learned nothing about controlling the impulses to destroy that which we hate. It is a disease that festers and grows because we allow it to flourish and is nourished by so many influences beyond our control.
Today, we are witnessing the most virulent display of hate and bigotry in our country’s history. African Americans, Asian Americans and all people of color are experiencing racial profiling resulting in attitudes that create separation rather than connection.
In recent times we have witnessed, more than ever, expressions of distrust and fabricated distortions with the systematic rise of antisemitism resulting in the uncontrollable rise of atrocities that are reminiscent of episodes throughout our history.
Our temples of academia spread discontent. The media thrives on the sensationalism of the fright associated with hate. Religious authorities try, for the most part, to control the savagery, only to find their influence slipping away.
The reports of humanity’s efforts to achieve survival for all are lost in the heinous acts occurring every day. It is difficult to find stories of selfless efforts to feed the hungry, house the homeless and achieve peace. They seem to be things of the past.
Age-old distortions are prevalent. Every time we seem to make progress in creating an atmosphere of connection, there seem to be many more episodes of discontent. Now the world that is supposed to be more in tune, more intelligent, more responsible and more educated has not changed anything. The flagrant display of hostility is because the disenfranchised now find their moment in the sun as they spew their anger and frustration. They, for the most part, have become mainstream. And it’s for these reasons and more that make it so frightening.
Over the last years, we have witnessed hate and anger on a scale not imagined or witnessed in modern times. No longer are these demons of hate hiding in the shadows, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting. Now they have become bold and unafraid.
The most recent display of religious and racial hatred seems to have permeated our society. This disease has been festering for a long time. The antagonism and the vitriol that dominates our thinking are commonplace and seem impossible to control.
Our country, which was and still is, a beacon of hope, now finds itself drawn into a lack of endurance and fortitude as it continues the journey of acceptance. We tolerate more than we can digest because we are afraid and intimidated by the vocal minority that has now become the majority.
The media constantly reminds us of the atrocities in lands we cannot even pronounce. More importantly, we are witnessing the destruction of our cities — filled with murder and mayhem that seems uncontrollable. We read about these horrific episodes and then return to our normal pursuits. Our minds cannot, and do not, understand how we have sunk so low. We close our eyes and hope that when they open, all of this will disappear together with the root causes.
How will reason prevail when hate is taught in the classroom, our homes and some houses of faith? How can the brutality end when we applaud the tragedies and watch our people get caught up in the frenzy of destruction of sacred thoughts and places?
Civilized society should demand that we confront this evil that has infiltrated our lives. Civilized society should demand a positive approach to the understanding that we need each other to survive. The discourse that should be taking place needs to be tempered with sanctity for life.
Our dream, as Americans, should be that as we engage the storm, we also know that the storm can destroy the very fabric of our being. Our leaders need to lead the way, not join in the upheaval. Our leaders need to demonstrate the futility of these hate-filled episodes that are destroying the essence of who we are as a nation.
Hate is here, will always be here, but it can be relegated to the basement of bigoted history. If we learn anything from the atrocities of the past, it is that we can make the future brighter than the past.
Isn’t this what we want for ourselves and those who follow? “Never again” is not just a slogan. It is a call to guard our liberties and the willingness to speak out when anger and frustration seem to determine
As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be active participants in the quest for survival — our survival. As we learn in Genesis — it is our responsibility to remain vigilant to preserve decency and Godliness. This is our duty as the people of Israel. This is our duty as the people who gave the world the understanding of God and all that is required of us — “to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”
Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D., is the spiritual leader of Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation, in Sun Lakes, Ariz.