This is America, in 2017
Yesterday, my colleague said I was surprisingly calm, and must have been off of Twitter, and asked if I’d seen the press conference? Yes, I said, I had, but that at this point, that my reservoir of shock had run dry and nothing was surprising me.
My friend Zach posted an article this morning: two days ago, Alan Zimmerman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, published an op-ed on ReformJudaism.org about how his temple hired extra security for Shabbat morning services on Saturday. How he stood outside his sanctuary and watched armed men with semi-automatic rifles stand across the street. How “parades of Nazis” walked by, with swastikas and Seig Heils directed towards his community. How he found out later that white nationalist websites had called for torching his synagogue.
Right now, our temple in San Francisco is in the middle of planning for the rest of the summer, and for High Holidays. Meanwhile, the white supremacists have received a permit for a “Patriot Prayer” rally down the hill in Crissy Field on August 25th.
When I immigrated to this country, I had to swear in a legally binding document that I had not been a member of the Nazi Party from 1933 to 1945. When I became a citizen, I had to swear that once more. I can’t do anything about the fact that the President of the United States utilizes “many sides” rhetoric to shift blame away from white supremacists, and does so with seemingly no checks on him. That Trump claims the mother of the woman murdered in Charlottesville said “the nicest things” about him, then admits he hasn’t even called her family yet.
As The Atlantic said yesterday, we’re stuck in a shitty loop, one where “[Trump] speaks, they criticize, and everyone waits a few days to do it once again.” As Trump rambled and argued and sputtered and challenged the media in front of the mirrored elevators in the building he still profits from, ret. General John Kelly, the man who’s supposed to be tempering Trump’s manic narcissism, stared at the floor, bewildered. Trump’s staff leaked their stunned surprise to the media.
It’s on us to speak up. It’s on us to lead by example, to call out prejudice and hate when we see it. The only way we, as individuals, can preserve those freedoms fought so hard for by generations before, is to make a choice in this time where the decision is starker than ever before. I’ve been reading “Responding to Everyday Bigotry” on the Southern Poverty Law Center website, and I encourage you to do so as well.
As Zimmerman says, “This is in America in 2017.” And hey Canada? I hope we’re a cautionary tale, but you’ve got work to do as well.