Finally, I got myself to watch the video. And I saw something I had never seen before in a lifetime.
Slowly, coldly— “callously” does not do justice—not as a man kills an animal or even swats a fly, but as a man puts out a smoldering campfire before falling asleep, so a man snuffed out the soul of another human being.
And, for the life of me, I could not imagine thisThere could be no more fatal error than to believe we are accursed to helplessness before ourselves, that we are incapable of uprooting hatred for good. scene had the neck squeezed to the pavement not been that of a black man.
It became clear to me as the sunshine that to this man, this black man’s life was not a life at all.
We are all outraged. Is there any decent human being who has seen the video of George Floyd’s life being taken from him, who has heard his unanswered whispers for help—“I can’t breathe!”—and is not outraged?
We are outraged because the very weight of authority invested in this officer to protect life was applied to crush the divine breath from a living human body.
We are outraged because in assaulting one man, our agent of peace assaulted the spark of conscience that renders us all human.
We are outraged because, as George Floyd’s breathWe are humanity, united by our divine image. We are America, guided by our ideals. was robbed away, something essential to all of us was lost—the breath of the divine that renders every life sacred.
But, most painfully, we are outraged because the story of brutal indifference to human life, the abuse of the powers granted each of us, the tyranny of the personal Pharaoh we each carry, the preponderance of The Status Quo that suffocates the breath within us all—
—none of this is new, but a disease that perpetuates itself recursively since Cain and Abel, like a malicious virus that embeds itself into our cells, as though it belongs there, as though it is just another product of our DNA, built in so that we can destroy ourselves.
“I noted all that went on under the sun, that one man ruled over another man to treat him unjustly.”—Ecclesiastes 8:9.
And there could be no more fatal error than to believe we are accursed to helplessness before ourselves, that we are incapable of uprooting hatred for good.
America needs healing.
When there is a rift in a living body between one limb and the other, do not tell the limb it must heal itself; speak to the body that must pull itself back together.
So too, America can only heal herself by her people joining together as one, by learning to see one another as we have never seen one another before.
We all want to end the crime of human oppression, in all its many incarnations.
The bodily or psychological assault by a person employed to serve and protect us is only one of its sordid faces.
The pervasive degradation of human dignity through racism and stereotyping is another.
Then there is the fatal assault to our sacred purpose upon this earth by a criminal justice system that could be healing, educating, standing young lives back on their feet, granting human beings another chance, but instead perpetuates and intensifies the cycles of dehumanization, violence and crime.
And then there is the affront upon the divine image we each may perpetrate, often unwittingly, throughout our lives, in action and word toward others.
It hurts. We scream. But how and to where do we channel that scream?
The right and the efficacy of civil protest is fundamental toWrecking a grandmother’s grocery store or ruining businesses that are the lifeline of so many hard-working souls is beneath the dignity of the divine image within us. American society. But we, the outraged, the pained, we must also stand up and loudly declare that wrecking a grandmother’s grocery store or ruining businesses that are the lifeline of so many hard-working souls is beneath the dignity of the divine image within us.
We have to stand up and scream, “This is wrong. No objective could justify these means. No lasting good can come from evil. No profit can come from robbing another man.”
But if violence is not the answer and peaceful demonstration seems nearly futile, if so many have lost their ability to see anyone who votes or thinks differently than themselves as fellow human beings entitled to their own perspectives but as deadly enemies in a very un-civil war—how do we break out of this?
You may have seen the video going around of the Rebbe speaking with Mayor David Dinkins in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riots of 1991. That’s the one in which the Rebbe insists that “the two sides are one side, one people, united by the management of one city.”
There is so much to be learned from those few, seemingly simple words. So much that those words can accomplish, because words create realities, and by changing the way we speak we can change the world around us.
As long as we continue to speak a dialectic of us and them,By learning to see one another as we have never seen one another before…getting past the dialectic of us and them. we perpetuate the divisions between us by perpetuating an illusion: That we are not one.
We can shift the paradigm.
We can change the way we think, the way we perceive life. We can transcend the illusion of us and them.
We can begin to see, begin to feel, that this entity we call they is us. This entity we call we is them. Which is really what is meant by the motto inscribed upon our dollar bills, “E Pluribus Unum”— “Out of the many, one.”
We are one. We can recognize that we all share the same life-giving breath of our One Creator. And it is precisely out of the magnificence of our diversity that the image of the One who has no image is revealed.
It all begins with the words we use, as we encounter all things in life.
That’s not a criminal. That’s another divine image failing to achieve its potential, just like the rest of us.
That’s not a cop on his beat. That’s you and me in a uniform.
That’s not a dangerous political demon. That’s myself with a different opinion, a different view of life from a very different background.
It’s not blacks, or Jews, or Hispanics who may be hurting. We are all healing—and we are all seeking solutions together.
Because humanity has many colors, thank G‑d.
We are humanity, united by our divine image. We are America, guided by our ideals.
Our diversity is not an obstruction Our diversity is not an obstruction to our unity, but a formula to be celebrated for the strength, the beauty and the wealth it gives us.to our unity, but a formula to be celebrated for the strength, the beauty and the wealth it gives us.
Let’s live that way. Speak that way. Act that way. Rebuild our world that way. Let all around us hear and see and know where our hearts lie.
If we speak, think and act as one we can change the course of history forever for the better.
We are one. We must grieve together. We must build a new reality together.
==breathe. think. speak. build.==
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