Friday, November 21, 2014

To Bigotry No Sanction

"To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance," these words begin the letter of response to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, written by President George Washington. The President borrowed ideas – and actual words – directly from Moses Seixas’s letter to him. They are words of which we all should be mindful this weekend as the decision by the Grand Jury in St. Louis is announced. George Washington wrote that:
"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens."
Pres. Washington closed with an invocation: “May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
Regardless of what happens with the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson this weekend, there are vitally important issues that need to be addressed going forward, not just in St. Louis but across the United States.
There is a lack of trust between police and minorities in many communities around our nation.
There is an assumption of active racism and bias. In many places, there is a history of it coupled with modern experience.
There are municipalities that fund themselves off of citing the poor for infractions often caused by poverty and need.
There is deep poverty and despair, joblessness and under-employment, a lack of quality education, hunger and homelessness.
Drug use, drug trafficking, robberies and murder connected to them are common and periods of incarceration are an assumed part of life.
Children live in environments where it is safer to be part of gangs and to arm themselves than try to remain apart from the gangs and guns.
Guns and violence are so prevalent in local communities that police officers rightly need to be on guard, something that can cause the rapid escalation of interactions into deadly encounters.
Far too many young men are dying.
Far too many parents and children are grieving.
There is plenty of blame to go around and a whole lot of work to be done.
Let us not stand idly by.
This weekend, let us pray for peace and change for the better. Let us be thankful for the many blessings in our lives as we head into Thanksgiving week, but also heighten our awareness of those who lack them in their lives. Let us "scatter light and not darkness."
Shabbat Shalom.