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Is Life Still Sacred?

10/04/2017 01:39:09 PM


Rabbi Kathy Cohen

I find it incredibly difficult to believe tht once again our country writhes with pain of a mass casualty. I believe it is my job as a Rabbi to offer words of comfort and consolation but I am afraid that I have run out of those words.  Praying for the victims, offering kindnesses and comfort to their families is simply not enough. It is reactionary and only necessary because we are failing to be proactive.

I could go on and on about the failure of gun laws in this country. I am a 2nd Amendment advocate - I grew participating in target shooting at summer camp. I am not opposed to people (sane people) owning guns. When it is easier to buy a gun and get a concealed carry permit than it is to get a driving license, we are missing the point of the 2nd Amendment.

i know - someone is going to say that guns don't kill people, people kill people. There can be no question that this is a silly mantra. People with guns kill many times more people than people without guns. I doubt that this murderer could have accomplished much out of his hotel window if he was throwing sticks and stones.

And yet it is not only about making guns a little more difficult to obtain. There is a sickness in our society and the gun violence is a symptom of that illness, not the cause. We have become a society that stigmatizes mental illness, refuses or makes difficult appropriate treatment for those afflicted and rather than providing a support network for the mentally ill, we cast them to the edges of society.

Mental illness is no different than physical illness. It is painful, it can be life threatening and it certainly affects the ability of the patient to function to his/her fullness. Would we say to someone with a stage one cancer that its not so bad - lets wait until it is a stage four before we expend the resources to treat you? Of course not - but we push aside people who are experiencing the beginnings of mental illness all the time. Phrases like - "Don't worry, you're just having a bad day." "put on your big boy pants and deal with it." "Everyone goes through that." etc. though well-meaning actually tell the person that you do not need help.

When we care about people, we also care about their problems. When we follow the teachings of our tradition and hold life to be sacred, we do not minimize what another is feeling.

This sickness that pervades our society is not about gun rights. It is not about gun laws. To get to the root of the problem we need to create a national culture that values all people. We need to create a healthcare system that actively and with the best science and psychology available helps people in distress. We need to have a national conversation about the sacredness of life

We are the only country in the world suffering so often from this type of violence. This is not normal and we cannot allow it to become the new norm. I do pray for the victims and their families. I do hope we can pass some decent gun control legislation without denying 2nd amendment rights. Neither of those is enough or even where we need to begin.

Now is the time for a radical change of our culture. Now is the time to look into the eyes of those that our society has marginalized and reach out a hand to them. Now is the time for health care reform that puts an emphasis on mental health evaluations and treatment. Now is the time for a proactive campaign to change the culture of our country. Now is the time to ask and answer the question - is life still sacred?

Fri, September 18 2020 29 Elul 5780