Curbing violence requires compassionate, not hateful, rhetoric


By Robert Kelly-Goss
Guest Columnist

Saturday, November 3, 2018

My half-brother is Jewish. I haven’t talked to him. I don’t know how he feels about this past weekend’s horrifying tragedy. But I worry about him and others in the Jewish community. We should all be worried about our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Moreover, we should all embrace our Jewish brothers and sisters. They are, after all, a part of us. They are our friends and neighbors, our community members and our family members. Faith should not separate us.

The history of the Jewish people is long and full of strife; it is rife with hardship and persecution. No matter how you relate your own life to the history of the Jewish faith, you should simply love your neighbor as you would love yourself.

In the Middle East, we see a struggle that beckons back through the ages. Right or wrong, the people of the Jewish faith have struggled to establish a safe haven, a return to their historic homeland by creating the state of Israel.

The creation of the Jewish state took place on the heels of some of the most horrific violence against a group of people in modern history. An attempt at genocide — the absolute abolishment of entire race of people — was the defining event of World War II. During the Holocaust, millions upon millions of Jews were murdered in the name of racial purity.

Today, we see once again the rise of anti-Semitism in this country and around the world. Our leaders seem to fan the flames of hate through their rhetoric, and we now find ourselves, once again in this country, faced with questions of tolerance.

When 11 people were murdered during services at their synagogue in Pittsburgh, I was shocked, sadden, aghast, and yet not surprised. That last part makes me even sadder because it seems that as we allow hatred to go unchallenged at the highest echelons of our society, we say, perhaps inadvertently, that it is OK to hate.

But hatred is not OK. Violent rhetoric is not OK. To speak of our fellow Americans as the enemy is not OK. Violence begets violence after all.

We forget that words have power and when they are thrown about haphazardly in an effort to stir the frenzy of political discontent, the results are never good. Today we need leaders who are willing to bring us together — all of us — not divide us along political, cultural, racial or religious lines.

Today we require a quiet reckoning, a look at who we are and who we desire to be. We must become a country of moderates, taking the middle road in an effort to stand together and thrive. Compromise from all sides, and from all facets of society, is necessary to begin to curb the wave of violent and angry discontent.

Of course, we can try to legislate tolerance and acceptance, and much of that is necessary, but more is required of us. Our leaders must lead from a place of compassion and we must find it in each of our hearts to accept one another for the human beings we are, and not be divided by the false perceptions we so handily embrace.

I know my brother is OK today. But I cannot be certain he won’t fall prey to the sort of violence that has become a hallmark of our society. I pray, however, that he, and all of us, will walk in peace and learn to live together despite our differences.

Robert Kelly-Goss is a former lifestyles editor for The Daily Advance.