Last Monday evening, my wife dropped off our son, age 13, for his weekly class with the rabbi and youth director and the other teenagers of our congregation. I came by at 8 o’clock or so, about a half hour before dismissal, to hang out with the parents. Apart from the receptionist buzzing everyone into the building, the evening proceeded and felt like any other. Of course the rabbi discussed the recent shooting in Pittsburgh with the kids, but the subject didn’t come up among the adults, at least by the time I arrived. We talked about local colleges, the Red Sox, the demands of our jobs, and I forget what else. If anyone was worried about an armed lunatic bursting into the premises to spew hatred and bullets, no one gave voice to such fears.
As I read about the eleven souls who were murdered last Saturday, I recognize the kindred souls of my own experience. They are the good people, the stalwarts, those who are always glad to welcome you to the congregation, those who have found their home in Jewish communal life and prayer and who make the world a better place in the process. I expect that similar folk are the backbones of churches, mosques, and synagogues all across the United States and the world. As we mourn the eleven souls in Pittsburgh let us also remember so many others, such as the nine African Americans killed by a gunman at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, which occurred over three years ago, and the twenty-six victims of a shooting at a Baptist church near San Antonio, Texas, which was only last year.
The logical and humane remedy is to ban, or at least severely restrict, the sale and distribution of assault rifles. No one has explained to me the purpose of an assault rifle apart from assaulting a large number of people, an activity in which no civilian should be engaged. I expect the effect of an armed guard at a church, synagogue, primary school, neighborhood supermarket, or Starbucks coffee shop would not be to deter or take down an assailant with an assault rifle, but instead to add by one the number of victims in the hospital or morgue.
Hope is a town in Arkansas, and it gave rise both to Bill Clinton, whose politics I generally have supported, and another Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, whose politics I think are mean-spirited and wrong-headed. Hope was also the simple, four-letter message of the Obama campaign, which I think was successful in many ways, but not in spurring the nation to install a like-minded successor.
I still have hope, and I feel I need hope because of my two sons, the younger of whom has just begun walking and eating solid food. Part of the reason I have hope is because America has surprised me in the past, for good and ill, and I truly expect those surprises will continue. Every now and then, at least, America turns the conventional wisdom, supported by the finest minds and unbiased polls, onto its collective head, leaving us experts scrambling to make sense of the country once again.
Election day is next Tuesday, so let’s MAKE IT HAPPEN THIS YEAR!!!
Last night was Halloween, and I accompanied my son and his posse on the ritual expedition through his friend’s neighborhood in West Acton. The proceedings seemed more subdued to me than in year’s past, but the evening was cool and beautiful and serene, and it ended, as always, at Laura’s house, where she welcomed all adults and kids, and served me a glass of spiked apple cider. Thank you again, Laura—and kudos again on the magnificent holiday decorations.
I did miss Aiden the Rabbit, though. You can read about this character in my essay from last year’s Halloween. He was a relative stranger who was identified to me only in passing, and I had no reason to think that we would have run into him again this year, or if we did, that he would have been sporting that great rabbit costume. So I will trust that Aiden and other Gaelic wildlife were out somewhere that night, doing the trick-or-treat thing, spreading small bursts of happiness and good cheer to the general populace.
During the morning commute I generally listen to NPR (that’s National Public Radio, for the unaware) and get my fill of the daily news (or daily outrages, alas.) In the evenings, though, I put in a CD from the collection. Tonight, for reasons that might relate to any of the paragraphs in this essay, I listened to the Best of Enya. Very calming and reassuring, although seemingly from another age of the world.
That’s all for tonight. Wishing you well, as ever.