While the Jewish community observed Shabbat, our day of rest and our day of peace, there was no peace in Charlottesville. VA; an assortment of bigots gathered to spread their vile mission of hate and their claims of racial superiority. According to the law enforcement officers on the scene, they came armed with semi-automatic weapons just waiting for someone to throw the first punch to show the world that they are not afraid.
Fear is the weapon of choice for those who hate. They only know how to hurt others and they expect that others only want to hurt them. It is a battle that they feel is their destiny and they are always locked and loaded and ready to destroy all who get in their way. They may claim that whites are superior to other races and religions but even Caucasians that stand by the side of the “others” will feel their wrath.
I am sure that Law Enforcement in the area was dedicated to keeping the peace. Yet the amount of hate and prejudice was so great that it would take a miracle to prevent bloodshed. We did not get our miracle. A bigot got to show how brave and fearless he is by running down an unarmed white woman who was only concerned that all people be treated fairly. Seeing the “bad optics” of the situation, the official spokesmen for the bigots immediately disavowed all responsibility for his actions and refused to claim him as their own.
Would their hero, General Robert E. Lee, whose statue they gathered to “protect” have been proud of their actions on Saturday? I am sure that he, as a gentleman and a soldier, would have been appalled. There was no honor in the crowd of bigots, only a collection of people spoiling for a fight, extremists unable to accept that the Civil War is over, and the Confederate States lost. Humanity has come to understand that not only is slavery wrong, but that the world is a better place without the bigotry, the injustice, the hatred, the incitement and the prejudice that was packed slavery’s box.
Since the Confederate cause surrendered at Appomattox, VA many other oppressed human beings have been able to emerge from the shadows. It has not been easy nor always safe, but slowly the diversity of humanity has come forward. While the fight for justice and equality goes on, human beings with different skin tones have come to expect a fair chance in life. Human beings of different genders and sexual orientations have taken their place in the sun, in business and in the armed forces defending our country. We as a nation are wiser, more understanding and more accepting because of their presence in our midst. We are becoming a nation that loves others, and refuses to give in to hate. It is true, our society is not perfect and there are still many stones in the road. But slowly, lions are lying down with lambs, the call to love one another is being heard, dreams of unity are a reality and the words of our first President, George Washington, that we will be a nation “that gives bigotry no sanction, persecution no assistance”, are slowly coming true.
In the end, we will not defeat bigotry and persecution with laws or armed force, it will be achieved through love. Anger and hatred can only exist in the dark. Haters may walk in the daylight and speak loud and strong but wherever they go, they bring their darkness with them, attempting to eclipse the light of love and acceptance. Bigotry grows when we are surrounded only with others who hate as well. When bigots are with people who care, when a bigot is surrounded with those who preach and teach a more loving and forgiving attitude, then hearts can be opened and bigotry is then exposed as an evil demon that must be banned. Good people can and often are murdered despite their goodness, but the love and hope they represent always lives on. That is why the statue of Robert E. Lee must come down, to make way for statues of those who gave their lives for freedom, equality and diversity; for statues of people who love rather than those who hate.
We have come too far in our quest to make true our dream that “All people are created equal” (yes, I know that this is not quite what was written down but I do believe that this is what our founders meant). We have made great progress toward our promise of “liberty and justice for all”; we can’t let a few hundred individuals in a country of 323 million people stop our advance into the future. I mourn deeply the loss of Heather Heyer who believed in justice, peace and love. I mourn the loss of the law enforcement officers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates who died in an accident while trying to insure that our streets are safe for everyone.
Let us pray for the souls of Heather Heyer, for Lt. Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Bates and for all the injured. Let us not pray for the death of the bigots, but for the death of their bigotry so all may “dwell in the shade of their vine and their fig tree with no one to make them afraid.” And may we all say, “Amen”.