For Trayvon Martin of Florida, USA; for Rabbi Jonathan Sandler of Toulouse, his sons, Gabriel and Arieh , and Miriam Monsonego; for the others killed in France whose names I have not seen in the American press; and for the families murdered in Afghanistan (whose names were also not published in the mainstream US press — a significant fact in itself)
Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali
—we grieve and we try to learn how to prevent such killings in the future.First, an English version of the Mourners’ Kaddish in Time of War and Violence; then, my thoughts on the causes and the meanings of these deaths. I urge that in synagogues, churches, and mosques, memorial prayers be said this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for all those killed in these three moments of horror.
IN TIME OF WAR & VIOLENCE
Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash shmei rabbah: May Your Great Name, through our own expanding awareness and our fuller action, lift You and us to become still higher and more holy.
For Your Great Name weaves together all the names of all the beings in the universe, among them our own names, and among them those who have touched our lives deeply though we can no longer touch them — (Cong: Amein)
—- Throughout the world that You have offered us, a world of majestic peaceful order that gives life through time and through eternity —— And let’s say, Amein
So may the Great Name be blessed, through every Mystery and Mastery of every universe.
May Your Name be blessed and celebrated, Its beauty honored and raised high, may It be lifted and carried, may Its radiance be praised in all Its Holiness –— Blessed be!
Even though we cannot give You enough blessing, enough song, enough praise, enough consolation to match what we wish to lay before you –
And though we know that today there is no way to console You when among us some who bear Your Image in our being are killing others who bear Your Image in our being —-
Still we beseech that from the unity of Your Great Name flow a great and joyful harmony and life for all of us. (Cong: Amein)
You who make harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe, teach us to make harmony within ourselves, among ourselves — and shalom, salaam, solh, peace for all the children of Abraham – those from the family of Abraham & Sarah through Isaac and those from the family of Abraham & Hagar through Ishmael — and for all who dwell upon this planet. (Cong: Amein)
KILLING JEWS, KILLING MUSLIMS, KILLING BLACKS
Three recent incidents:
A Frenchman kills a Jewish family and several French soldiers (some of them Muslims) who had served the French government’s interests by using violence against Muslim societies.
An American soldier kills several Muslim families in Afghanistan, the second Muslim country in which he has been ordered into four tours of violence.
An armed Euro-American kills an unarmed African-American for looking suspicious inside a gated community in Florida.
Three utterly different news items? Merely, as a Secretary of Defense once euphemistically said, “Stuff happens”? Just dots, no connections?
I don’t think so. For one thing, I think all three killers were operating within a framework of what seemed like legitimate violence. Even though there was widespread condemnation of their acts, afterwards. Afterwards.
The Florida killer was operating under a basic American cultural “rule” (once felt by almost all white Americans, then by a majority, and still by a large proportion of them): The lives of black folk are far less valuable than the lives of white folk.
The Florida killer said he felt fearful. And Fear in a white person is far more urgent to end than Life in a black person is important to save.
Why did he feel afraid? Because the domination of other human beings, the willingness to enslave one class of them, lynch them, segregate them, impoverish them, imprison them, can only be undergirded by coming to believe that this class of them are dangerous. The oppression –- which benefits the oppressor – precedes and gives rise to the Fear.
You can overcome fear by connecting, communing, with the people you fear. (But then how can you keep the benefits you get by oppressing them?) Or you can overcome fear by being willing to suffer and die for a principle. Or you can overcome fear by being willing to kill.
In France, a marginalized Frenchman put meaning in his life by enlisting in a one-man army. An army to avenge all the killings of Muslims by the French and Israeli armies. Anyone wearing a French uniform, and anyone wearing not only an Israeli uniform but the “uniform” of Orthodox Judaism, was dangerous. Even their tiny children.
He might have overcome his fear of these “dangerous” people by connecting, communing with them, trying to affirm his own humanity so that they would be more likely to affirm his. Or he might have overcome his fear by risking suffering and even death, directly and nonviolently challenging the governments he saw as dangerous and frightening. Or he could overcome his fear by killing.
And the third killer, an American soldier. He had been taught, not only in the brain but with every muscle and blood vessel in his body, that his job, and more than that his moral task, his sworn duty, is to kill Iraqis and Afghans. And certainly he fears them. They have damaged his brain, distorted his life.