An Italian Jew

Take a Deep Breath

Listen, maybe we should all take a deep breath. Right? There has been such tremendous upheaval in our world for more than two decades. One inflection point after another, one highly charged catastrophe after another in a pattern of chaos. Sometimes, all a person needs to do is breathe, deeply and intentionally before reacting. Perhaps a pause-a deep breath by all-will contribute to peace.

In 2001, Arab terrorists hijacked airliners packed with people and flew them into massive symbols of American power. Thousands were killed and the rest of us were suddenly forced to recognize and respond to a vulnerability we never thought would come near us. The sudden impact was jarring and, perhaps then too, we should have taken a breath.

Not all inflection points are negative. Barack Obama’s election in 2008 affirmed many peoples’ values and aspirations for the country. Hindsight is easy, but we might have considered then that backlash resulting from a Black man and Black woman living in the White House might have negative repercussions. Obviously, not everyone saw his election as a good thing. Only 40 years earlier, MLK was shot down in Memphis, and the forces behind that tragedy didn't die when we elected a person of color.  

The Arab Spring in the early 2010’s launched awful violence in Arab countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The peoples’ demands for greater political participation, fueled by their pent up anger, erupted onto the streets. Most of the uprisings, starting in Tunisia, were short-lived, and nearly all were shut down by authoritarian governments holding onto power. Bashar al-Assad killed hundreds of thousands of his own people during the Syrian civil war. The civil war in Yemen is impacting the world now, with Houthi rebels attacking merchant ships and the US and Brits responding.

Trump descending the escalator in 2015 was the unleashing of a backlash against everything Obama represented to White nationalists in America. Trump's election and Presidency is an inflection point, not just in our recent history, but in all of American history. It’s hard to believe that a man who now faces 91 criminal charges is the preference of a large number of Americans. 

Oh, then the Covid-19 Pandemic happened. Not only was it a horrible public health crisis, but the “leader of the free world”, in whose lap the pandemic landed, was the most  incompetent, corrupt, and dishonest president ever. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could barely breathe during that entire time. 

And the George Floyd murder. And the January 6 insurrection. And so on, and so on.

October 7, 2023. Nearly every Jew I’ve spoken with since has expressed how seriously harmed they feel by the Hamas massacre of our people in Israel. The hostages in captivity and the persisting war are affecting all of us deeply, personally. Many American Jews don’t need to live in Israel to feel their trauma. After all, we have been living with their violence since it was first inflicted upon Israel since statehood in 1948. The Arabs turned down a state alongside Israel and immediately declared war on the new country. We have really been at war ever since.

Many have said a pause would have been a better strategic move immediately following that horrendous day: Gather and bury the dead, secure the borders, tend to the injured and the grieving, and devise a plan to bring the hostages home.

Now, as we pass 100 days of hostages being held and war raging across the Middle East; as we start an election year in the US with everything on the line; and as we light our candles for Shabbat, perhaps we should simply pause to take a breath and reflect upon the impact and results of our actions going forward.

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