For the Jews the past week brought three separate sorrows. Each was made sadder for me as the events occurred during the three weeks Jews mourn the destruction of their two temples and the ongoing killing of people because of a mistaken belief that is what God ordains.
The three weeks of mourning end on Tisha B’Av a fast day in Judaism. Tisha B’Av is named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. Both of the temples were destroyed on that day although 655 years apart; so the day is called by many the “saddest day in Jewish history.”
This year three events added to the sorrow. The first event was the death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, a highly influential spiritual leader of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. He was noted for his love of the Torah and love of man, humility and trying always to guard the sanctity of life. Thousands of mourners walked his coffin from his home to his grave. The loss was great, but expected. Nor was this a loss that touched me personally; although many at the shul I attend had studied with Rabbi Elyashiv.
Then came the horror of the bombing of Jews in Bulgaria.
Jews have died for being Jews across far too many centuries and mostly for wanting to worship their God and live in a way that made the world kinder. Religious hatred continues to fuel killings and not just of Jews. Christians, Mulims, Hindus are dying. It fills me with despair that so much hatred still exists and that despots continue to use that hatred to goad people into killing, particularly innocents.
Finally, there was James Holmes killing innocents watching a movie.
I live in Colorado, Aurora is a neighboring suburb. The gun laws in Colorado are somewhat liberal, you are allowed to carry once licensed. Colorado does careful checking before you can buy a gun–the legacy of Columbine.
I spoke this week with a woman in our temple who carries a gun. David also goes to shul armed. When I lived in New York, there was police protection at all the shuls. Not here. Hence some of the worshippers carry guns as part of a security watch.
Guns are not allowed in the cinema where the shooting occurred. That obviously didn’t keep Holmes from entering and killing. Some say, if the more honest citizens had been armed, the damage might have been less. I’m not at all sure of that; it would have taken time to get to a weapon and Holmes was wearing protective armor.
Banning guns will not stop this kind of slaughter. Nor will the death penalty. I do not believe in the death penalty, but I think all who murder with a planned intent or who “snap” without premeditation need to imprisoned for the rest of their lives. Once you kill, you are more likely to kill again.
I also would like assault weapons banned. But banning less lethal guns will only strengthen the black market access to guns by those intent on violence. New York has fairly stringent gun laws, but the gangs have their weapons and simply by-pass the law.
Finally, even without guns James Holmes had his bombs.
I think the problem has a number of causes. It sounded to me as if James lost his dream of making it to the place in society he dreamed of obtaining. To me the relentless “You can be a star if only you dream it and work at it is partly to blame. This is a particularly deadly message for high achievers who then fail.
A competitive society where many say “Winning matters most” does not help. It focuses on personal gain no matter who else gets hurt. Moreover, in all things those more willing to hurt others seem to be the ones to gain power. Bullies often succeed because they view kindness as weakness and the kind are reluctant to defend themselves violently.
He was also a loner and some are saying may have suffered from an untreated mental illness. My own take is that any one slaying innocents is doing something outside of human normality. The only reason for any violence is self-defense and even then one must strive to do as little harm to another as possible.
I do fault the ranting and divisiveness of our current media, particularly the “news” and the commentators. There seems to be no news, just bias reporting of events. I have heard both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party blamed. Disagreement helps clarify; knee jerk name calling or blaming harms all.
I also cast some blame on the entertainment industry’s veneration of violence. And yes, for some people it is a harmless outlet. Most identify with the hero, or even when identifying with a villain, the saner self stays in control.
Twisted minds make their own reasons, but the media does influence. At least one copy cat twisted mind man was stopped and arrested as he was heading to murder. And perhaps even he wanted to be stopped, for he was speeding and driving recklessly which is how he was called to the attention of the police.
All this pushes me to despair, but the Rabbi said at shul, no matter happens in the outside world, each person has to assume responsibility not just for bemoaning bad things, but doing what ever they can do to challenge evil. So I will keep on doing my blogging thing and challenging hatred and violence while promoting kindness. At my age I can do little more and as my brain deteriorates will not always be able to do that.
STAYING STRONG TIP
For anyone experiencing emotional distress stemming from the events in Aurora, please call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
I am sure they will help if other events have pulled you down. How do you know you need help?
I judge my need to get outside help not just by my feelings, but by a combination of feelings, thoughts and behavior. I feel very sad now, but I have no thoughts of harming myself or others, and I continue to do what needs doing. I am isolating a bit and remember James was described most consistently as a loner. Loners live within their own minds more than is healthy.
So if you are sad, alone, thinking of hurting someone, and less and less able to do what needs doing, call a hot line or make an appointment to see a competent therapist. Life can be better.
Be kind to me, like this post, comment or share. You will be helping me stay strong and maybe others as well. Click here for my free Ebook: The 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Training Exercises.
Stay strong, it is an ongoing struggle for as much as life is joy and love, it is also pain and suffering.
IMAGES BY Arizona Jewish Post and CNN