Our humanness sets us apart as the only species capable of loving and hating to the extremes we witness daily. As we go about our business within the Proctor bubble, we feel drafts of insensible hate leak into our community from seemingly far off places.
Most recently, the murder of eleven innocent people in their place of worship during a baby naming ceremony at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh stopped me in my tracks. How could this happen? How will the people in that community move on? How could someone be so filled with hate to kill others? Could this happen to my family in our place of worship? The questions I ask become increasingly selfish. I subconsciously work to distance myself from the evil out there, compartmentalizing the good that is happening in our collective work at Proctor from the sadness that too often surrounds us in the outside world.
This weekend’s tragedy in Pittsburgh occurred less than two miles from the Mennonite church my brother-in-law and sister-in-law pastor, and hit especially close to home for our family, as I know it did for others in the Proctor family who call Pittsburgh home or share their Jewish faith with members of the Tree of Life Synagogue. My brother-in-law, Dave, shared the following words and the image below with his community as a call to action. There is profound truth in these words, truth we must both embrace as a community and wrestle with as individuals:
This is a close up of the center of the line drawn between East Pittsburgh, where unarmed teen, Antwon Rose, was shot in the back on June 19, and Tree of Life Synagogue, where 11 people were murdered three days ago. It bisects the sanctuary of Pittsburgh Mennonite Church and Swissvale Borough, just about halfway between the two sites of violence.
We cannot fail anymore to resist this violence and those things that drive it. Nor can we afford to fail to embrace our rightful place on the path of its anger alongside the neighbors it threatens to destroy daily. The violence is not out there in some enemy target, we live on its line. This is us. As Solzhenitsyn wrote,
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."
We have to own this as our legacy and fight for our own soul as a human community. For me, this image reminds me of all that I have in me: the good, the beauty, the evil, the cowardice, and all I am capable of: the good, the beauty, the courage, the honesty, the work, the celebration.
We must always actively nurture our relationships with others as we move from thoughts and prayers to action. As perfectly curated as we desire our lives to be, we each confront the good, the bad, and the ugly within ourselves on a daily basis. Former faculty member and diversity coordinator, Yunus Peer, shared the graphic below with Dean of Faculty Karl Methven. As Karl reminds us, our role as educators is to build a strong foundation of values to prevent the base levels of hate in the pyramid from taking root in our community. Seemingly innocuous comments in the dorm, in the locker room, in the dining hall, each erodes the base of this pyramid. We combat this through shared experiences with each other in classes, on teams, in dorms, in advisories, sharing a meal, or cleaning dishes.
As we consider how we move forward in support of those impacted by tragedy, we must look at ourselves. Next week we will go to the polls to vote. We will step into that cramped booth to take an individual action in hopes of having a macro impact. Living in a democracy affords us this cherished voice, but we must be sure to live our lives in a way that ensures our daily, micro impact on our community mirrors our vision for what society should be at the macro level. During Thursday’s assembly we will dive further into this conversation as a community as we actively work to strengthen our understanding, appreciation, and support of each other.