STOP THE VIOLENCE!
by Rabbi Michael Lerner — Tikkun
We mourn all the victims of violence, including the large volume of violence against people that goes unreported and underreported, including poor people and people of color, but also we mourn for the very few police officers who have been hurt or killed by those outraged at the way police have been harassing or murdering members of their community, their people, their race, etc. EVERY HUMAN LIFE IS PRECIOUS. None of the violence is OK. Not black on black violence, not white on black violence or black on white violence, not police violence, not acts of violent retribution. A hard message to get across in a society that responded to the horrendous killing of 3,000 plus Americans on 9/11 by engaging in assaults (both military and economic) on Afghanistan and Iraq that caused the loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Yet violence continues to produce more violence. So the violence we delivered in the Middle East engendered ISIS/ISIL, and so it goes throughout history, and today in our own country. But for us in the religious world, the ongoing violence normally ignored by the media and genuinely not known or understood by most Americans is a spiritual, religious, and ethical emergency that deserves the attention of all people in every country of the world.
We at Tikkun call for an end to the violence in our society. Both the violence manifested in physical assaults and police assassinations of African Americans and the few acts of violent response by outraged African Americans at the ways their community members are being slaughtered. Also the violence caused by an economic system that denies people adequate food, shelter, health care, and other survival needs (both in the US and around the world).
Stop the violence of US wars and drone strikes.
Stop the violence of incarcerating more people than any other society on earth.
Stop the violence of rounding up and deporting refugees.
Stop the violence inherent in US trade deals that have the effect of dumping produce and other goods into foreign markets that undercut the ability of small farmers in those countries to sell their products at a price sufficient to give them enough money to make a subsistence living, thereby forcing them to either move to the slums in big cities where they face starvation or selling themselves or their children into slavery or sexual slavery, or to move El Norte (to the north) to find a way to make a living in the United States or other northern countries (where the good President Obama has them rounded up and deported, though he could instead offer blanket pardons to them all, as was argued in a persuasive op-ed in The New York Times). First step: implement the Global Marshall Plan.
Stop the violence of people against each other, by making illegal the manufacture, sale, or possession of semi-automatic weapons, assault weapons, and other conveyers of death (including new methods of killing people like bombs, robots equipped to carry lethal weapons, grenades, and whatever next comes down the pike) — if necessary through a Constitutional Amendment aimed at ending this epidemic of violence.
And while all violence is deplorable, we as a society have a special obligation to repair the damage done to Native Americans and African Americans who have faced hundreds of years of violence inflicted upon them by the white majority of this country. The psychic wounds of the American genocide against Native Americans and the enslavement and then subsequent segregation of African Americans, daily reenforced not only by an economy that disproportionately disadvantages people of color, and a police force and criminal justice system that tends to arrest and imprison people of color, and paritcularly African Americans, often for crimes that whites commit but are rarely punished for or for which they receive far less harsh punishment, give us at Tikkun special commitment to calling for reparations for these communities, and for our passionate endorsement of the notion that Black Lives Matter.
Stop the violence by legally empowering the African-American community in each major urban area, the major target of police violence, to create an independent police review commission with the power to indict police who have engaged in harassment, racist behavior, arrest without cause, or actual physical assaults on people of color, and then those indictments must be tried before juries that have been given a mini course on racism, classism, and other forms of discrimination and oppressive behaviors that have long existed in our society and which may still be a factor in the way that juries in the past have exonerated police for violent or murderous behavior.
Stop the violence by refusing to allow participation in otherwise peaceful demonstrations of anarchists who believe that violence is OK. And send to prison undercover agents of the US government or any other branch of government or the military that use undercover agents to incite violence or engage in violence.
Violence, whether physical or built into the economic and political structures of our society, is usually the product of “othering,” in which we fail to see the humanity of an individual or more frequently of everyone who belongs to a certain group. While the most frequent form of othering in the US is racism toward people of color, sexism, homophobia, classism, Islamophobia and antiSemitism, it also in some liberal and progressive circles manifests in the demeaning of all people who are into religion (I call that religiophobia), all people who are part of the 1% (ignoring the many — though just a small minority — who align themselves with social justice and environmental movements), and the police (many of whom try to do a conscientious job of enforcing the laws of our society without bias, even though the dominant ethos in many police forces does in fact validate violence and many such forces do have a culture of racism, sexism and homophobia — but still that doesn’t justify generalizing to everyone in those police forces much less all police everywhere).
Stop the violence by creating not a minimum wage but a Living Wage as defined by the MIT organization that determines what that amount is city by city and region by region. And by creating a guaranteed annual income at a level high enough to make it possible for every family living on that income to live with all the basic necessities and without fear that they must cut back on food to have money for health care or cut back on health care to have money for lodging, or cut back on lodging to have money for some basic clothes for themselves and their children.
Stop the violence by transforming education so that compassion, empathy, caring for each other and caring for the earth gets at least as much emphasis as reading, writing, and math, and these are given priority in entrance to college or university and entrance to graduate or professional training. And stop the violence by adopting a New Bottom Line.
Stop the violence by ending racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and all other forms of hatred. Have every school system require courses at every grade level from kindergarten through graduate or professional schools, and every television network, tv and radio station, as a condition of continuing to use the public airwaves, provide prime time programming aimed at achieving this goal.
Unfortunately, the likely consequences of the murder of the police in Dallas will be an increase in the militarization of local police forces, increased repression, and only token acknowledgment of the systemic racism and belief in the efficacy of violence that has permeated American history and its institutions. Few of the systemic changes that are needed are likely to even be discussed much less implemented. All the more reason to mourn for all the victims of violence both in the United States and around the world.
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