Imagine a place where everyone wishes you well. Imagine a place with no negativity or hate. Imagine a place with no cell service and no water bottles. Imagine a place without shame...Read More
Last year in Israel, I shot an M16. Doing that was a big deal not only because shooting an assault rifle is a big deal, but because I was the kind of mom who wouldn’t buy my children a toy gun.
I was the kid who wore peace sign T-shirts and scribbled the word peace all over my notebooks.
I won’t kill an insect.
But I grew up during a time of relative peace, a time when hippies spewed love and John Lennon sang Imagine.
I didn’t understand until recently that conditions in the world could change, that the harmony I’d experienced my entire life, could vanish.
I believed there would never be another war.
How could there be? Weren’t people smarter? Hadn’t we seen enough destruction in World War II and in Vietnam?
My mother used to tell me stories about the air raid drills she had to participate in during the 50's when she was a young schoolgirl, and how she was instructed to hide under her desk when an alarm rang in order to shield herself from flying glass. She always emphasized the fear, the uncertainty, she felt. I thought those stories to be antiquated, a thing of the past.
I never had to do anything like that.
But my daughter does. At her school, they practice. Students are prepared for a terrorist attack.
It seems that every day now, in the newspaper and on the news, there is a new story involving guns and death.
For so long, I believed we had to get rid of guns.
But then one day recently, I think it was after the shooting in California, I woke up and decided I wanted to learn to shoot. I was done with my Pollyanna attitude. For the first time in my life, the world seemed like a dangerous place.
It’s not that I want to hurt anyone; but I do feel a pull, a calling, to protect my family and myself.
The day after I left Tel-Aviv, four days after I'd shot an M16, there was a shooting just a ten-minute walk from the hotel we stayed at. A gunman killed two innocent people and injured eight outside a bar in the middle of the day.
He got away.
I don’t know if I could ever really own a gun. But the fact that I, a self-proclaimed flower child, could even think about it is significant.
Times are changing.
People change too.
“How iPhones Ruin Your Posture and Your Mood” was a recent New York Times headline. According to the article, in order to see our small screens, we are hunching. And cowering affects our self-esteem. In, Are You Addicted to your cell phone? I discussed other disadvantages of phone use, namely being easily distracted and not focused on the present moment.
And while those things may be true, here’s what’s also true— I love my cell phone!
It allows me to view, Ruth Chang’s TED talk, How To Make Hard Choices.
Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk, My Stroke of Insight, a fascinating discussion about the brain and peace on earth.
Johann Hari: Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong.
On Facebook, I see how the owners of SOTO boutique, a clothing store in LA, made their holiday party not only festive but meaningful. At a Sunday morning breakfast, packages of clothes for the homeless were arranged for distribution. What a lovely way to spend the day: amongst friends and coworkers, giving back.
On Twitter, I follow Novelicious and find this Kurt Vonneget quote.
On Instagram, Alice Chera, Life coach, posts one of her thoughtful every day reminders.
Once again, it boils down to what my mother says. Somehow it always boils down to what my mother says: With the good, comes the bad.
So, yes, I’ve been spending more time on my phone but I’m getting a lot in return. (Like the idea that I have to pay attention to my posture.)
So every now and then, I’ll remember to sit up tall. But I won’t stop reading what’s on my tiny screen—gathering information, insights, ideas and inspiration.
And yet, I have to admit, I’m scared.
I’m scared to google: Charlie Hebdo.
I’m scared to go to a kosher supermarket, a synagogue, a yeshivah.
I’m not scared to the point where I won’t actually do those things; but I do them with forethought.
For months after 9/11 the only way into Manhattan was by subway. As the Q train sped across the Brooklyn Bridge, I put my hands over my face, my head in my lap and prayed. My friend, Susan, took one look at me and said, “I don’t believe what I’m seeing. Are you crazy? What do you think is going to happen?”
I didn’t know.
What I did know was that on the morning of 9/11, while phone lines were still intact, I called my husband, hysterical. I told him I was watching TV and that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I said the building was going to go down. Even as the words came out of my mouth, I didn’t really believe what I was saying. My husband told me I was being ridiculous, that the building would not go down.
But it did.
Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly newsmagazine named after the American Peanuts character, Charlie Brown. The magazine is known for its provocative cartoons mocking political leaders and religious extremism.
All extremism- Catholic, Jewish, Muslim.
“Charlie” is pro-freedom and believes that the best cartoons make people laugh and think.
Extremists don’t want people thinking independently. Education is like kryptonite to extremists. (See: Teach Children and Change the World.)
It’s true that Charlie Hebdo cartoons have been inciting havoc for years, and after seeing images, I agree that some are racy and even disrespectful; but in a free society, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to look. You can boycott or protest- you can write, draw, dance, march, sing your opposing point of view; but you can’t murder.
Voltaire, a French philosopher and advocate for freedom of religion and freedom of expression said, “I hate what you are saying, but I shall fight so that you are able to say it.”
Friday night, at our Shabbat dinner table, my family talked about the killings at Charlie Hebdo, we talked about the murders at the kosher supermarket and we talked about the march in Paris for solidarity.
I brought up that in response to the supermarket incident, a women commented online, “Why should anyone have sympathy for a group that thinks that regular food out of the regular grocery store is unfit to eat.”
Thankfully, someone wrote back, “That is an incredibly racist and ignorant comment.”
But the questions we are left to grapple with are:
How do we deal with such hatred and naivety?
And how do we fight terrorism while protecting our civil liberties?
Before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, the magazine was in financial trouble and did not have a huge following. Weekly, the magazine printed 60,000 copies with less than half being sold. But since the massacre, one million copies of the first issue were planned. It was then increased to three and later five million copies. In the end, seven million copies were printed. Ironically, just like with the film The Interview, terrorists have called worldwide attention to, and spurred interest in, subjects that might have gone less noticed.
And as a result of their heinous crimes, we have joined together, and in that solidarity there is commitment and strength. Who knows what will change, or if anything will change at all; but every small act matters, and if the terrorists hadn’t attacked Charlie Hebdo, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post, mostly, because my dedication to freedom of speech wouldn’t have been on my mind; but also because if I didn’t address my own fears in writing this, terrorism would be working.
While I’m not as brave as the editor at Charlie Hebdo who said after an attack in 2011, “I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees,” I embrace his sentiment, and this post is my banner, my contribution to the fight.
I am freedom.
I am Charlie.