Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

A year after Parkland, we are all numb

Jorge Zapata, Jr., center, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, holds candles with his mother Lavinia Zapata, and father Jorge Zapata, Sr., during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at the school, in Parkland, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

It was all supposed to have changed, wasn’t it?

A year ago, in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we promised ourselves that things would change.

The students rallied. They went to Tallahassee. They stood up. They protested, with mixed and sobering results. We promised them that we would be their allies, that we could change the world together.

But, consider all of the shootings that have happened since Parkland.

Consider how the blood reached the gates of the American Jewish community itself. The war came home. In the wake of the horror at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we mostly (and appropriately) talked about antisemitism in America.

But still, the guns.

Even since Pittsburgh, more shootings.

Because, if the American mindset and our gunolatry did not change after the shootings of little children in Sandy Hook, why would we have thought that the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School would have changed anything?

Nothing has really changed.

Actually, no — that’s not entirely true.

Something has changed within me. At a certain point, I simply stopped mentioning the names of the victims of shootings during my prayers in synagogue.

It was not that I had stopped caring.

It was simply that I had become numb.

When it comes to shootings in America, we have all become numb. We barely notice them anymore. We have come to accept them as part of everyday life..

That is the greatest danger. To accept as normal that which is hideously abnormal. That is how societies unravel.

But, numbness is a luxury that we cannot afford. It is to be lulled morally to sleep. It is to check out, to zone out. To simply stop being aware.

The alternative? To scream.

I thought about this during the recent State of the Union address. I thought about this in the midst of conversations about late term abortions.

This is what I have noticed, and what many have noticed.

There is an almost direct correlation between those politicians who are opposed to more vigorous gun control laws, and those who are opposed to abortion.

Those pro-life, pro-gun politicians care about fetal tissue. They care about a pregnancy at four months.

There is virtue in that.

We must ask, therefore, of those politicians:

You care about the tissue of potential life at four months in the womb.

Might we ask you to care about the tissue of a human being outside the womb — at four years, or at fourteen years old, or at forty years?

The utter hypocrisy is enough to make any reasonable person scream.

On this first yahrzeit of Parkland, I will weep — and not only because the victims were my neighbors in Broward County, Florida.

I will pray for the healing of those burdened with physical and emotional scars.

I will pray in gratitude for the first responders, police officers, medical professionals and mental health practitioners.

I will pray in solidarity with the rabbis of Parkland and Coral Springs, the communities most intimately affected by the horror.

I will pray for the families of those who died.

And, yes — I will talk myself out of being numb.

The late writer, Elie Wiesel, used to tell this story.

A righteous man came to Sodom and pleaded with the people to change their ways.

No one listened.

Finally, he sat in the middle of the city and simply screamed.

Someone asked him, “Do you think that will change anyone?”

“No,” said the righteous man. But at least, they will not change me.’”

The last word cannot be a scream. On this yahrzeit, it is appropriate for the last word to be a prayer.

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Joe Black, the senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Denver, delivered this prayer in the wake of the shooting in Parkland. It was the opening prayer for the Colorado State House.

Our God and God of all people,
God of the rich and God of the poor.
God of the teacher and God of the student.
God of the families who wait in horror.
God of the dispatcher who hears screams of terror from under bloodied desks.
God of the first responder who bravely creeps through ravaged hallways.
God of the doctor who treats the wounded.
God of the rabbi, pastor, imam or priest who seeks words of comfort but comes up empty.
God of the young boy who sees his classmates die in front of him.
God of the weeping, raging, inconsolable mother who screams at the sight of her child’s lifeless body .
God of the shattered communities torn apart by senseless violence.
God of the legislators paralyzed by fear, partisanship, money and undue influence.
God of the Right.
God of the Left.
God who hears our prayers.
God who does not answer…
Our prayers have not stopped the bullets.
Our prayers have changed nothing.
We are guilty, O God.
We are guilty of inaction.
We are guilty of complacency.
We are guilty of allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by politics.
The blood of our children cries out from the ground.
The blood of police officers cut down in the line of duty flows through our streets.
The monsters we fear live among us.
May those in this room who have the power to make change find the courage to seek a pathway to sanity and hope.
May we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.
Only then will our prayers be worthy of an answer.

One more prayer — this time, a prayer for healing.

God, instill within us the capacity for outrage.

God, lift us up from the paralysis of acceptance of the world as it is.

God, heal us from our numbness.

 

 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

42 Comments

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  • Nothing will change as long as Republican politicians and their supporters believe that lunatics have a constitutional right to own guns and that when tragedy does happen all that is needed are “thoughts and prayers”.

  • Thank you. Rabbi Joe Black’s prayer is about moving forward from calling on God to acting as we know God would want us to act. Our complacency is getting worse. Our indifference to the suffering of others outside our bubble of family and friends and even the religious communities that should be urging us to act – leads us to seek commonality and safety in our bubbles, and to close our eyes to the needs of so many in their own bubbles, but definitely not part of our own, closed worlds.

    Does too much prayer feed complacency?

  • Lunatics are already prohibited from buying or owning guns.

    What happened in this case is a public school failed in its duty to have this particular lunatic properly supervised, evaluated, and treated and the local Sheriff and his deputies totally and completely failed to do their jobs.

  • David Hogg provided plenty of made-for-media “outrage” and cursing and attacks on respected Florida elected officials like Senator Rubio.

    You see where all that got him.
    Not… Very… Far…

  • “You care about the tissue of potential life at four months in the womb.”

    “Might we ask you to care about the tissue of a human being outside the womb — at four years, or at fourteen years old, or at forty years?”

    “The utter hypocrisy is enough to make any reasonable person scream.”

    The “point” would be well taken were the law such that human lives four years, fourteen years, or forty years of age could be taken against their will because they were inconvenient to some other person or other.

    But that is not the case, and this winds up being little more than emotional appeal, propagandizing, and a failure to understand the notion of rights and their balancing.

    And we know where that leads.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7241463_Human_dignity_in_the_Nazi_era_Implications_for_contemporary_bioethics

  • The problem is t hat there has been a school shooting every 12 days on average since Parkland. And you assume all shooters are lunatics which is not simply true – it would be more accurate to say they were almost all male.

  • I think there could be another because inserted which has to do with gun laws, or more accurately, lack of because of lack of support for specific laws. And the UK thought otherwise in cementing the ban against handguns since Dunblane – no school shootings since 1996. Finishing the ban of 1988 on a range of other firearms. Gun laws are deemed in essence as inconvenient to many gun owners.

  • There was no constitutional gun law that would have prevented the Parkland shooting.

    The UK has neither the First Amendment or its equivalent nor the Second Amendment or its equivalent and it shows.

    If Americans wanted to say “Moo!” and be herded, we’d still be colonies.

  • No, that is NOT the problem.

    And yes, I understand males are a problem for you.

    https://www{DOT}washingtonpost.com/outlook/school-shootings-are-extraordinarily-rare-why-is-fear-of-them-driving-policy/2018/03/08/f4ead9f2-2247-11e8-94da-ebf9d112159c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.798d7c1a1548

  • “Those pro-life, pro-gun politicians care about fetal tissue. They care about a pregnancy at four months.”

    There is where you are mistaken.

    Its not care about fetal tissue at all, or ever. Its always about control of others. Treating people as less than people, as property to command and control.it was never about concern for life, it was about acting in a self-righteous and obnoxious fashion. To attack the morals and values of others by pretending to hold greater ones.

    After all these are people who when everything is said and done would rather have a mother die or face severe medical issues than terminate a late unviable pregnancy.

  • Those officials weren’t worthy of respect.

    They deserved the attacks and disrespect given. Their responses were ignorant, dishonest, callous and meant to ignore the growing problem.

    What it got him was largely harassment, reviling and defamation from the right wing crowd.

  • “Its not care about fetal tissue at all, or ever.”

    For a change, Spuddie, you are absolutely correct.

    It is about life, human life to be exact.

    While your side wants to treat some human lives as less than human, as property to command and control, it iss never about concern for life, it was about posturing, acting self-righteous, and being obnoxious.

  • Wayne LaPierre. Current CEO of the NRA

    He opposes measures which bring mental health into the picture when dealing with gun ownership. His own past history (including dodging the draft on psychological issues) makes such laws troublesome for him.

    He is also against background checks and is largely responsible for the canned narratives which promote gun hoarding and straw buying.

  • How many times on these pages, have those who comment called for violent action? IF we want to stop the gun violence we need to change the culture that glorifies the “macho male” “tough guy” ideal. I am usually the only one that objects to the violent comments and I get attacked every time. We don’t need prayers. We need people willing to take a stand and say that “violence, physical and verbal” is never the answer to our problems. They need to say this every single time it pops up on social media, in comments on websites like this, in personal conversations.

    Violence is never the solution to our problems.

    Small men and women resort to violence in an attempt to make themselves feel big. It is actually a sign of weakness, of impotence. TRUE power and strength as Buddhists, and Hindus and Taoists have taught long before Jesus walked this earth comes from self-control, self-discipline, self-respect. The person with these qualities has no need to bully or abuse others.

  • There is an almost direct correlation between those politicians who are opposed to more vigorous gun control laws, and those who are opposed to abortion.

    In addition to “politicians,” I would also include multitudes of Christian fanatics among them.

    I tend to suspect that anti-abortion dogma is rooted in tribalism as a means of increasing the size of the tribe. And, in religious tribalism, each newborn child is an opportunity to indoctrinate a new person with “correct” delusions before another tribe manages to indoctrinate them with “incorrect” delusions, or, heaven forbid, they possibly become rationally thinking adults. It’s much easier to indoctrinate a person beginning when they are children than it is to convert them after they become adults. As P.T. Barnum supposedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and the anti-abortion crowd wants to take advantage of that as early as possible.

    And, being anti-gun-control assures that tribal members maintain the right to “defend” themselves against those who refuse to accept the “correct” delusional indoctrination. (Of course, the word “defend” is a euphemism.) The Holocaust is one of history’s most glaring examples. And, little mass shootings, such as Parkland, are apparently viewed as just minor inconveniences that we need to tolerate in order to maintain freedom of “self-defense.”

  • Rabbi, have you wept for the deaths of those murdered each day in America’s largest cities?
    Have you cried their names to the Lord!
    Do you weep for those who choose to kill another for drugs, money, power or pleasure?
    Do you weep for their victims? Some innocent; some not so much?
    Do you weep for the fatherless children?
    Do you weep for the fathers who choose not to be fathers?
    Do you weep for the single mothers? Of, 4, 5, or 6 children from different fathers?
    Do you weep for the minds of children poisoned by the violence seen on television, the movies and the internet; that which makes it seem okay to take life.
    Do you weep for the 4 year old gunned down in a drive by because violence is glorified?
    Do you weep for the nuclear family – that which once held society together.
    Do you weep for the loss of God in these people’s lives?
    You make this about politics; when it is about people’s loss of belief in God.
    If there is no God, there are no consequences for my actions.
    If there is no God, my life and those of others have no value.
    If there is no God, there is no law.
    If there is no God, there is no humility.
    The people are lost Rabbi.
    It’s not the gun that’s the problem; it’s those wielding it.

  • IF we want to stop the gun violence we need to change the culture that glorifies the “macho male” “tough guy” ideal.

    I agree. Let’s begin by having the liberals in Hollywood change the movies they make. Hypocritical actors are all over gun control as they wield guns and glorify gun violence on the screen. Hmm the same hypocrites that fly private jets worldwide to climate change conferences.

  • Not to worry — the expensive PR firm 42West is handling him and his buds. I wonder at whose expense???

  • Violence pervades our culture, movies, TV, books, internet. AND yes there is something out of balance with expressing concern for the environment and living in a resource consuming McMansion, and jet setting all around the word.

  • Well we know you certainly have no concern for any of these things beyond what can be used to attack others and aggrandize yourself. Of course half of those are just “lets condemn people for existing” and make patently bigoted appeals. But why get in the way of a canned rant?

    The status quo of ignoring our national love affair with irresponsible firearms ownership and its consequent disdain for law enforcement is not a reasonable argument.

  • Based upon your postings here and on other pages; I would think that you would tend to side with those who carry illegally.
    Why does the left with to punish law abiding citizens for the misdeeds of some?
    Why, you sound like a nazi.

  • Amen? According to the Bible your god is a Janus (or bipolar) and when the bad dude appears, Hollywood can’t match his bloodthirstiness.

  • Hardly. That would be the role of the NRA. Have lobbied intensively to make law abiding gun owners indistinguishable from gun smugglers/straw buyers. Hence their opposition to national level record keeping necessary for effective enforcement against the flow of illegal guns into our cities. Making it impossible to tell the difference between smugglers and sane responsible people.

    The NRA wants law abiding citizens punished for the misdeeds of many. Urban violence increases the sales of guns illegally and spurs legal panic gun purchasing as well. They represent gun manufacturers, not law abiding gun owners.

    “Why, you sound like a nazi.”

    Because……? Nazis loved having armed populations to act as their collaborators and proxies. Fascists in general do.

    You sound like an ignorant fool who has nothing but cheap canned slogans.

  • In years past others have handed you your tushy on a platter on things like “That would be the role of the NRA. Have lobbied intensively to make law
    abiding gun owners indistinguishable from gun smugglers/straw buyers”, which of course is a fabrication.

    Do we have to do it again in 2019?

  • The Parkland incident demonstrated:

    – the public schools can’t be trusted to point out to authorities a clear lunatic in their midst because they are so politically correct;

    – relying on law enforcement instead of armed self-defense,at least Broward County Florida, is the heighth of folly.

    https://www{DOT}sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-ne-ron-desantis-scott-israel-decision-20190110-story.html

    “…. Israel ‘egregiously failed in his duties’ by not properly training deputies and not maintaining ‘a culture of vigilance and thoroughness,’ among other weaknesses.”

    “The suspension caps a nearly year-long series of revelations that exposed the failure of Broward sheriff’s deputies to run in to save children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a former student marched through the halls with an assault rifle.”

  • “He opposes measures which bring mental health into the picture when dealing with gun ownership.”

    You tried this a year or so ago.

    The current background check system is an NRA product.

    The NRA – in accordance with the Constitution – demands that civil rights be abrogated only by judicial process, not by bureaucrats based on little or nothing.

  • Poor little Mark are you being picked on? Grow up. Try being honest in your comments and no one will “pick” on you!

  • No, I just get tired of reading your crap.

    For example, “Grow up” for the 100th time.

    You haven’t a single point here in a year or more.

    But keep’em coming and I’ll keep’em sailing over the fence.

  • “4 And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
    5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments…..” Daniel 9:4

  • You know Linda, I find it interesting that the shooters were male……
    Is it not sad for little boys, who grow into men, that they are brought up in a male hating, feminist culture, who devalues them and would prefer that they are emasculated almost to the point of feminized by women who hated the same restrictions placed on them?
    It is no wonder that young men are fighting back against a culture that would happily castrate them, and unfortunately, these boys choose younger people who could be helped out of that evil culture also.
    This culture takes away Christ. They reinvent morals, which we all know are wrong, as the Lord has written His law on our hearts, and vulnerable little boys cry out the only way they know how – without being called a sissy.
    Our culture did this to these boys.
    Feminists, if you want to be respected, help these boys, or go back to being a woman and let the men teach these boys how to be men.
    What the boys are doing is definitely wrong, but, on the other hand, it’s understandable

  • In this case the shooter’s home life was a mess.

    That’s what the breakdown of the American family and the resultant loss of fathers accomplished.

    Another big win for feminism.

  • You know, we’ve had the same waiter at a restaurant this month. He is a young man who has just finished high school and is considering college.
    His hair is blue, he had more makeup on than tammy baker, but gave us a male name to call him by.
    That is what feminism has done to young men and the odd ones, the ones unaffected by the travesty are fighting back. Feminists are afraid of men and have far too much influence in our culture and I hope in my lifetime to see the pendulum swing back.
    At one time, women needed to stand up, and in an attempt to do so, began to murder their babies in the farce of ‘their rights”.
    Unfortunately, I don’t know how anyone, other than prayer, is going to help this pathetic young man that feminism has destroyed. No wonder boys are angry and striking out. Lord, just lead them into wisdom!