As Usual, Silence = Death

Image: One person helps another to the top of a hill, in silhouette. (Pixabay)

This past week a friend pointed me to “Pick a Hill Worth Dying On, America.” I found it moving and motivating and I thought I’d pass it on, with a few additional thoughts. John Plavlovitz is one of my favorite Christian bloggers and he writes with an energy and urgency that I admire.

He begins, “If your eyes are clear and open right now you can see it: this is a pivot point for us, America.” 

In November 2016 I was very upset about the election, but my mantra was, “Our democracy survived Watergate and it will survive this, too.” I have vivid memories of those days in the 1970’s and while it was a worrisome time, the system functioned the way it was supposed to.

In the months since the election – and really, before that – things have happened in which it’s clear the system is no longer working. The first big sign of it was Senator Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow a confirmation vote on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. At the time, that was simply unbelievable: I kept thinking, “but they can’t do that!” The GOP could, and they did.

Since then, the hits have just kept coming. The first thing President Trump did was sign an executive order for the Muslim ban.  After the recent Supreme Court decision, a modified form of the ban is in place. For those of us who feel strongly about not targeting people on the basis of religion, it’s a failure of the system.

About 5,000 American citizens died from the hurricane in Puerto Rico, but our government only admits to 64. Babies were torn from their mothers’ arms at our borders. Our government apparently didn’t even bother to keep records of who was where – some of those children may never locate their parents again. My tax dollars at work. And then there’s corruption, and the evil tax bill, and on and on…

Worst of all, facts are now a free-for-all. Fox News says one thing, the other news sources say something opposite, the White House sniffs, “Fake News” and we stumble along in the dark. I feel like I’m living in Orwell’s London of 1984.

NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL. The United States has always had a problem with racism, but for most of my lifetime, we had the good grace to be ashamed of it. The United States has a nasty history of mistreating immigrants and exterminating Indians, but in the last 50 years, we were not in the habit of celebrating those behaviors.

Now we have Nazis running for office, and hatred on display everywhere. Indictments have been brought against 12 Russian spies who interfered in our last election, but the coming midterms are still vulnerable to such attacks.

I agree with the Rev. Plavlovitz: It’s time to pick the spot where we will dig in. There are plenty of topics, and we don’t have to totally agree on anything, just stick together long enough that this country does not become a place of shame for centuries to come.

  • I can work on voter registration.
  • I can hound friends and neighbors to vote.
  • I can write op eds.
  • I can write letters to the editor.
  • I can correct fallacies on social media with links to solid sources.
  • I can call and call and call my elected officials.
  • I can encourage the elected officials who already get it.
  • I can give money to campaigns.
  • I can be a good ally, supporting those with whom I have some issues in common.
  • I can refrain from demanding ideological purity from my allies.
  • I can be civil to all comers, but firm with people who have no intent to be civil.

And whenever I feel tired, whenever I want to just lie down and hope for the best, I will remember these verses from the Scroll of Esther:

Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace.

On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” – Esther 4:13-14

During the AIDS crisis, one of the slogans of the movement to deal with the epidemic was “Silence = Death.” Then it meant that if we don’t communicate, we’ll die. If we don’t speak up for others, they’ll die. I’m beginning to feel like that slogan needs a revival, because we truly cannot afford to sit in silence.

Silence = Death. Let’s not go there.

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rabbiadar

Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

5 thoughts on “As Usual, Silence = Death”

  1. I’m registering people to vote.
    I’m making calls.
    I’m signing petitions even though I don’t know if it does any good.
    I’m marching no and attending rallies.
    I speak up when I need to.
    As much as I feel despair, I know I must have hope.
    Silence=Death
    No silence here.
    Thank you.

    Like

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