Last Saturday morning, the sanctity of the services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was shattered by horrific gunfire, and within seconds 11 had lost their lives while at worship. They were shot because the gunman believes that all Jews should be killed.
On October 24, two African-Americans were killed in a grocery store in Kentucky by someone who, when confronted by a citizen with a gun, said, “whites do not shoot other white people.”
Both crimes are being investigated as possible hate crimes. These and others tear at the heart of our country. Words that are written and spoken matter. Concepts are expressed and then they take hold. Ideas have consequences: in these cases, the result is death, grief, a terrible impact on families and communities, and a growing sense of anger and even despair.
School shootings have become commonplace and are fueled by dark ideologies of hate. Bullying has become rampant in schools and online, giving rise to mental health issues that destroy and take lives.
We cannot ignore what is happening as a result of toxic ideas and words. Now is the time to speak out and to act in harmony with the words we express. Sadness and grief must be matched by action. Our thoughts and prayers must be accompanied by a willingness to raise our voices in tangible ways, and to act to stem the spread of ideas that lead to violence and death.
The elections are on Tuesday—just four days. Your ballot is your voice.
We must speak out and act with courage against the language of hate. We must counter violence against any group with ideas that have the power to transform and build our nation and our community. The Declaration of Independence, the founding document of our nation, contains these defining words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These words are our best legacy, contain our best ideas, and state our highest goals. Now is the time to proclaim and live them.
(Turn back your clocks on Sunday. Change the batteries in your smoke alarms. Make your voice heard by voting.)