Some thoughts and a prayer after the latest mass killings, this time of elementary school students:
Banning all guns is necessary but NOT sufficient in light of the increasing violence in our society. We need a fundamental transformation as well as banning guns. Otherwise, we will now revert to the normal debate between liberals wanting more gun control and conservatives saying that it's not guns that kill, but people. Both are right. So here is what we need to do:
1. A constitutional amendment to ban all guns, and to create special holding units for hunting rifles to be held in control of locally elected officials in every neighborhood who keep the rifles under lock and key except when given to hunters during a hunting season and to be returned immediately thereafter, with all necessary criminal controls and penatlies for those who do not return them in a timely manner and those who continue to hold on to their guns privately. No private ownership of guns of any sort. Police must similarly be disarmed, and allowed only to use billy clubs and mace, except in emergencies in which a judge signs a warrant for the temporary use of lethal force against someone who is using lethal force. Lesser measures (background checks, banning only extreme assault weapons, etc.) are wimply and will have only slight impact.
2. We must create a track of education in every school and every grade level that teaches non-violence both as a philosophy of life and as a practical way to live one's life, plus: non-violent communication, that teaches children and teenagers and college students about a) how to value and care for everyone else on the planet including their parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, and future lovers or partners, b) how to deal with depression, anger, feelings of alienation, powerlessness, stress, and isolation, c) how to give support to those who are not functioning or are psychologically or spiritually impaired and how to find the correct help for people who need professional help, d) how to recognize and appreciate all the beauty and miraculous wonder of life itself, of the universe, and of human beings, e) how to appreciate and protect the planet from all those forces that are inadvertantly destroying it, f) how to end poverty and share the resources of this planet with everyone equally in a planet-sustaining way and g) how to develop one's own capacities as a spiritual, ethical, aesthetically and emotionally developed, mature and loving human being.
These are what we must be seeking. The liberals are right about step number one, but they don't go as far as I propose. The conservatives are right that human beings and not just guns are the problem, but then they never develop or support an educaitonal system that will teach people the skills we all need. Liberals fear introducing values into public education for fear that they'd be the wrong values. It's time to stop that, and fight for a values oriented education, based on the values of love, caring, kindness, generosity, and protection of the earth. Till that happens, conservatives will always have a good case for devaluing public education, and for saying that only religion teaches values (and liberals will prove their case by not creating an educational system that teaches any value other than "making it" or, in polite Obama talk, an "education that prepares our children to compete effectively in the global marketplace," which de facto means, learning how to advance oneself at the expense of everyone else so that "you can be number one and make America number one"). Well, guess what helps make you or others number one: violence and power over others. And that message gets reinforced over and over and over again by television shows about crime and the police, about wars and violence, but also by the society valuing and rewarding soldiers who go off to kill innocent people in foreign wars to protect imperial interests. So, it takes a whole society to create pathological killers out of human beings who are not born that way, and it will take a societal effort -- plus individual efforts to get the pathological messages out of our consciousness and replace them with loving and caring messages and worldviews. But we can do it, and that is precisely what our Network of Spiritual Progressives is all about (read our Spiritual Covenant with America ). Without this kind of change of consciousness, step one (banniing guns) will be ineffective and possibly dangerous.
Meanwhile, for immediate relief, but not in replacement for collective action around points one and two above, you might find some support in the prayer below which I urge you to read to yourself and family, to your friends and community. And blessings to you and all whom you love, and Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season to all!
Rabbi Michael Lerner RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.com Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun www.tikkun.org, chair of the (interfaith and atheist-welcoming) Network of Spiritual Progressiveswww.spiritualprogressives.org, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, Ca. He is the author most recently of The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right and of Embracing Israel/Palestine: A strategy for Middle East Peace. He welcomes your responses at RabbiLerner.firstname.lastname@example.org
God, let me cry on your shoulder
A prayer after today's school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
God, let me cry on Your shoulder.
Rock me like a colicky baby.
Promise me You won't forget
each of Your perfect reflections
killed today. Promise me
You won't let me forget, either.
I'm hollow, stricken like a bell.
Make of my emptiness a channel
for Your boundless compassion.
Soothe the children who witnessed
things no child should see,
the teachers who tried to protect them
but couldn't, the parents
who are torn apart with grief,
who will never kiss their beloveds again.
Strengthen the hands and hearts
of Your servants tasked with caring
for those wounded in body and spirit.
Help us to find meaning
in the tiny lights we kindle tonight.
Help us to trust
that our reserves of hope
and healing are enough
to carry us through.
We are Your hands: put us to work.
Ignite in us the unquenchable yearning
to reshape our world
so that violence against children
never happens again, anywhere.
We are Your grieving heart.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat