I’m scared…

I’m scared.

Not for myself, but for some of my family and friends whom I love dearly. And not even just for them–but for my country and our world.

Why?

I understand that we aren’t all ever going to think alike, and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay. I like the diversity of thought, opinion, and experience to be found in any group of people. I may not agree with everything that is said, but as I struggle with comprehending where some of those thoughts and opinions come from, my own perspective gains. In hearing someone else’s experiences, I get a broader sense of life.

I also understand that we read scriptures differently–both in having different canons of scripture (for those who are religious/spiritual) and in reading the same scriptures differently. And again, I’m okay with that. Any time the finite (us) have an experience with the Infinite (the Divine, God, Allah…whatever name you may choose to use), trying to share that experience in words is going to be difficult–and incomplete.

But what scares me is not how pervasive those differences have become–but the way in which those differences have started being perceived.

When did it become acceptable to start separating people into classes of acceptable and not acceptable, based on where they came from…the color of their skin…who they love…? to demonize anyone who is “other”?

What has happened to us to make it seem even marginally acceptable for a state legislator to propose an initiative to execute homosexuals by a bullet in the head (or any other “convenient” method, according to the bill)? Hopefully it will never pass…but to even think that this kind of treatment is acceptable is sad and appalling.

Why is it acceptable to take children who have known no other life but in this country and force them to “return” to a “homeland” that is not theirs…through no fault of their own? Yes, we need to find ways to fix our immigration situation, but not on the backs of children who were brought here before they knew anything else…and who only want to offer their gifts and talents to what they have always believed is their home country.

Why does it seem impossible for those of us who are white to give validity to the experiences of people of color when they talk about being oppressed? Why is there such a disproportionate percentage of African-Americans locked up…many for offenses that whites are given probation for? Then, when they are released and trying to find decent jobs, that criminal record is held against them forever. Yes, I know that there are many who are locked up for valid reasons…but our legal system seems disproportionately biased against those who are not white.

Why do we turn our backs on the mentally ill? Yes, it was a good idea to try to mainstream them back into the community…but we didn’t provide funds to help provide the counseling needed for this to succeed, and so now many find themselves homeless–or in jail.

Why can we not agree on sensible laws about gun ownership? I know of no one who is “trying to take away everyone’s guns”…but that is the first mantra chanted whenever someone proposes any changes. How many more Columbine High SchoolsSandy Hook Elementary SchoolsGabby GiffordsJewish Community Center…? How many other accidental shootings when children find a loaded gun and decide to play with it? When will we decide enough is enough?

When can we live out this prayer for the world, shared by Rabbi Harold Kushner in 2003?

Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.

Amen.