Mixed Feelings

December 13, 2013
Shabbat potluck dinner at JFC

Shabbat potluck dinner (Photo credit: otir_im)

Shabbat is coming with such mixed feelings this week.

On the one hand — SHABBAT!  Shabbat is a day of rest, a day of blessing, a day of holiness.  Shabbat!

On the other hand — this Shabbat will be the 1st anniversary of the Newtown massacre. All those children, all those teachers, mown down because … why? We will never know why a disordered young man murdered his mother and all those people. All we know is that a year later, nothing has changed. You can still get a gun without a background check, and there’s still darn little we care to do for people in the depths of a mental health crisis, or for their families. (Yes, I know how he got the guns. I still want that loophole closed, because I want it to be more difficult for people with mental health problems and/or felony records to get guns. Nor do I plan to debate this in comments.)

And on yet another hand — this week I will have my first real Shabbat Open House, the one where I have sent an email to a few of my students and said, “let’s hang out.” I know that some are planning to come. Don’t know about the others. The idea is to just “be” from 3 until havdalah, enjoying each others’ company, playing games, maybe studying, maybe not.  I’ll report back, I promise!

May your Shabbat be a Shabbat of blessing, peace, and remembrance!


Speechless, and a Modest Proposal

December 17, 2012
Cover of "The Shootist"

Cover of The Shootist

I’ve been trying to think what to write in the face of events in Newtown, CT.  Words fail me. I remember being the age of those children; I remember having children that age. First graders are among the most innocent creatures on earth – in many ways they are humanity at its sweetest. I just have no words for their murders.

What I do have is some thoughts about the pattern of murder/suicide that repeats and repeats across America. When it’s “just” a man murdering his girlfriend or wife and then shooting himself, it barely rates a mention on the news, so accustomed have we become to this pattern.

Here’s my proposal: let’s quit referring to these guys as “shooters” or “gunmen.” Both of those words call up images of the Old West and of John Wayne.  One almost gets the feeling, from those words, that it’s just the manly thing to do.  News flash: there is nothing “manly” about killing the people you love or other helpless souls and then sidestepping consequences by shooting yourself, too. It’s an act of either supreme insanity or cowardice, or both.

So let’s call them what they are: cowards.  No more news reports about “the shooter” please: refer to him as the coward who shot himself when he heard the cops coming. Refer to them as “criminals.”

I believe we need to take a hard look at gun laws, and a hard look at the resources available to the mentally ill, but in the meantime, let’s call this what it is: a criminal act, a cowardly act. Such an act is not romantic and it does not “send a message.” Yes, we will remember – because we refuse to forget the victims, but let’s assure future perpetrators that we will remember them only with disgust.

May the souls of all those injured in this and every other act of gun violence this week be comforted in the arms of God, and in the love of friends and family.


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