As a Jew, fighting to end injustice began pre-conception. It is in the DNA and blood shed of my great, great, great grandparents; those persecuted for practicing a faith that marked them as a threat to Christianity and the decline of civilization.
I am a survivor of the survived. To my ancestors who came before, I feel that lineage deep in me every day I look around and in the acts, deeds, and work I do. I am their work and I live their survival.
On this day of Atonement of Yom Kippur, I ask my ancestors and my friends for forgiveness. I am far from perfect. I have hurt people- too numerous to count and even more painful to own. I know I have flaws. I struggle. But I would rather wrestle in that struggle to deepen my ability to become more human each and every day.
I read some statistics today that connected me to my family's history -- and a detailed history I will likely never know--- those who came from Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Spain, France... .
The Transgender Monitoring Murdering Project reveals that "100 reported murders of trans and gender diverse people in 2016, which is the highest number in the first 4 months of the year registered by the TMM project since 2008. In total, the numbers add up to 2115 reported killings of trans and gender diverse people in 65 countries worldwide between the 1st of January 2008 and the 30th of April 2016, 1654 of which were reported in Central and South America." (http://tgeu.org/tmm/)
These statistics are alarming. It makes me wonder, do we forgive the people who believe the world should be rid of trans folks? And, for that matter, any person whose blood is shed by a murderer, who truly believes that the killing is justified in the name of some greater good?
I still don't know how to answer this. I do know that each time a person is murdered for an identity which is then justified by those whose "center" is threatened, I am forced to confront my own humanity and morality over and over again.
Ellie Weisel once said, we should never forget, but the greater question now for me, is how do and can we forgive such acts?
As I ask for forgiveness today from those I've hurt, I wonder too, how and can I do so when I/we bear witness to these continued acts of cruelty?
I did a walking meditation and prayed today around the reservoir in Central Park. My mind kept drifting to education and the lack of opportunities so many of our students experience. How could it not? A day of introspection does not mean I leave my work at the office door.
Then Trump popped into my head. It made me realize that so many of the people we know, break bread with, laugh and cry with, may support him. What is hard to swallow is that who he represents, his avatar, if you will, is ubiquitous and it has thawed the ice enough for spouts of hatred and prejudice to pop up all over this country, like sprinklers.
While society is not stranger to prejudice, it's more out in the open than it has ever been, and regardless of the election, what's been punctured is punctured. And whose task will it be to contain the spouts from forming into tidal waves?
Education is a critical lever for social change. So, what are we going to do post-election? Even if Trump loses the election, the soil has been tilled and we know what is out there... more than ever.
I leave today, as the sun moves into night, the night into the dawn, and the dawn into morning, knowing that the work I do, have to do, can never stop. The fact that it was ever-present today on Rosh Hashanah, tells me that my resolve must deepen even more and that I can be strengthened, we can all be strengthened by the common will to teach instead of hate, to link hands in the midst of unrest, and to unite with unrelenting determination to keep working toward justice for all. If we are truly for equity, then we cannot pick and choose which issues we are for. Equity is indivisible.
Are you with each other?
Who will link arms?
Who will help the tilled soil grow and flourish into a justice-garden?
For as hard as this is to watch-- a live death captured on video, this is a reality everyday in America. While some of you may not want the images emblazoned into your psyche ---I do ask though, if you watch violence on TV or movies-- err., the simulacras, then why avoid the "Real"?
For change to happen, we cannot by bystanders. We need to see. We have to see. We have to want to see.