As I worded my opening greeting, I paused at the awkwardness of ‘I hope all is ok with you.’ The words feel normal enough unless you slow it all down and pay close attention. Just what does it mean to assess whatever is going on around us as ‘ok?’ OK from the front edge of your house and lawn to the boundary of your backyard? How about if we lift our gaze to take in our neighborhood, our city, our state, our nation, our world? Now the greeting I shared merits a more complicated answer, but I aim to tread carefully while reaching for something deeper than a smiley face or an upraised thumb.
Everything is not really ok, and we all know it. Taking in the big picture includes thinking about a pandemic that is not melting away into a carefree now-let’s-get-back-to-the-
Moving from the good news to the stuff that is painful — unrest grips our country, and I am morally obliged to speak about the plague of racism and bigotry — a scourge that will not be defeated by a pharmaceutical miracle, by contact tracing, by face masks, by ventilators.
Demonstrators — not just those we see now, but so many, going back for many years — have been choking and bleeding for quite a while. White people and black people have lived vastly different lives (that phrase might be an inexcusable substitution for vastly unequal lives) for a long time. And this latest spasm of violence is the latest flare up for a societal plague that has consumed and disfigured lives for centuries. Everything is not ok.
I wanted to stand in the park during a recent (peaceful) demonstration downtown. And my Covid-driven anxieties kept me hunkered down.
Big-picture: I am uplifted by calls for interracial unity and by words of healing and encouragement — words that are desperately needed by a nation in deep pain, wracked by violence.
God asked Cain where his brother was and he arrogantly clapped back with: I don’t know, Am I my brother’s keeper? That question is still on the table for the rest of us. Are we responsible, accountable, charged to toil for change? Throughout the Torah, the lesson is repeated over and over. Our ancestors knew the whip and the boot heel. We cannot look away, pretending that racism and inequality are not our problem. All those reminders to remember slavery, to love the stranger — God will hold us accountable for our actions. And for our inaction.