2014 has seen a number of political and spiritual disasters: for example, the Gaza War; the election of the most anti-democratic, anti-Earth US Congress in at least the last century and possibly since the pro-slavery Congresses of the 1850s. Why did these things happen? One powerful answer came even before 2014 from Gloria Steinem:
In the fall of 2013, as Gloria Steinem approached her 80th birthday, The Shalom Center not only celebrated her lifetime of transformative activism, but sought to learn from her (and from me), “What does 80 look like for a life-long activist?”
What I recall most vividly from that whole amazing evening was this:
Gloria drew on her long experience as a feminist to remark that American society stands in the same place as a household when a long-abused wife at last decides to walk out.
“That is,” she said, “the moment of greatest potential freedom—and of greatest potential coercion. Enraged by the wife’s bid for freedom, many abusive husbands at that moment turn to violence.”
Indeed, in 2014 we lived through both the bubbling-up of new freedom and the danger of greater coercion:
In 2014, for the first time, 400,000 people flooded New York to demand “Climate Action Now,” against the Carbon Pharaohs that are abusing Earth itself with modern Plagues. Among the marchers were members of many Jewish organizations that were for the first time speaking out on climate as a Jewish issue.
And in 2014 we saw with fuller clarity how the Earth itself, abused by these Carbon Pharaohs, has rebelled through droughts and floods and superstorms.
And in 2014, we watched as some of the Pharaohs, like the biblical archetype, responded with still more abuse: The burning of oil has resulted in global scorching, the melting of arctic ice, and the beginnings of disaster for all seacoasts. So some oil companies have responded not by changing course but by seeking permits to drill for still more oil to burn, in the very Arctic regions where the melting of the ice has made oil-drilling easier. And oil companies spnt millions to buy a new Congress from he 2014 elections
In 2014, for the first time, social media made possible the bubbling up of a national movement protesting the long-standing abusive practice of police violence against unarmed young Black men. Jews who joined in the movement lit Hanukkah candles in public places like Philadelphia’s 30th Street Amtrak Station. Rabbis were arrested in demonstrations against racism, for the first time since the ‘60s.
In 2014, the attempt of Hillel International to limit the free expression under local Hillel auspices of views about the State of Israel and Zionism –- an abusive imposition made much worse by the far more abusive Gaza War — brought forth a wave of “Open Hillel” resistance, and a national conference of Open Hillel people.
Similarly, efforts by various “official” American Jewish organizations to quash criticisms of Israeli government policies or of the directions Zionism has taken or even the presentation of critical plays written by Israeli playwrights have resulted in still more outspoken resistance.
Other “abused wives” – marginalized and oppressed communities — have also walked out of the abusive structures built by official American society.
What next –- more freedom, or more coercion?
Let us enter 2015 with clarity about the choice, and with conviction to create more freedom and more justice in every sphere where abuse has become habitual.
And as the old year ends, I hope you will follow the example of Rabbi Leonard Beerman and increase your own contribution to The Shalom Center, to help us continue and increase our work to help the abused communities of America and Earth win more freedom, more justice, fuller healing. To do so, please click on the Donate banner in the left-hand column of this page.