Day: August 16, 2017

What I Wish A President Had Said Last Shabbat, by Rabbi Daniel Weiner

My fellow Americans…

In the aftermath of the tragic events continuing to unfold in Charlottesville, I want to first offer the condolences of a nation to the families of Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, who were so untimely taken from their loved ones. And while we are profoundly grateful for the service and ultimate sacrifice of these State Troopers, the murder of Ms. Heyer tries our faith as it plumbs the depths of our national conscience.

For as Heather Heyer followed the conviction of her principles to a terrifying end, we must face this difficult moment with a difficult realization: Heather was murdered in an act of domestic terrorism—and she was murdered by hatred, bigotry, and evil. The alleged killer and those who organized, sanctioned and marched in Charlottesville suffer the delusion of false empowerment, believing that somehow they possess new license to spew toxic views, to incite wanton violence, to instill fear and to take the lives of those they see as inferior, as less than, as subhuman.

To these misguided citizens, I want to say this clearly, plainly, and unequivocally: There is no place in America for you and for your beliefs. Our nation did not fight wars against slavery and fascism—wars to secure freedom borne of rights endowed by our Creator—only to see the noxious icons and rancid chants of racism, anti-Semitism, and other odious bigotry parade through the streets of one of our historic cities, an inevitable and direct cause of the violence we witnessed today.

To those who stood with Heather against this regenerated virus plaguing our civic body, I commend your embrace of our constitutional rights as I endorse the ideals that brought you to that protest. For it is the historic obligation of every American to speak out against threats to our nation. As President Kennedy cited decades ago at another time of urgent need:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

But I implore you, as your president, and as a fellow citizen who dreams of a different way forward for all of us: Do not descend into the vitriol and violence of our adversaries. Come together, yes! Speak out with a clarion call for justice, equity and respect. But do so in ways that transcend the base and primitive means of those who long for an irredeemable, bygone era.

Let us embrace the path of an American hero, who met contempt with compassion, bigotry with blessedness, the wound of the brickbat with the unqualified will toward love. Dr. King taught us that:

Through violence you may murder the hater but you do not murder hate…Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

And though our faith may not enable us to love our enemies, it is our faith in the blessings of liberty, the pursuits of a life of purpose, and the noble cause of justice that unite us as Americans—a faith that overcomes evil, hatred and bigotry—a faith that envisions new, better days ahead.

May God bless you. And May God bless the United States of America.