צדק צדק תרדף
Frankfurt Mishneh Torah, Northern Itlay, dated to 1457. Illuminated by the Master of the Barbo Missal
Justice, Justice, you will pursue. These are among the first words in this week’s Torah portion. The words echo in my ears, louder and louder.
We live in a western democracy. I live in Canada which has a democratically elected government. The United States to the south also has a democratically elected government. Here in Canada we are tolerant- at least we think we are. We strive to be more tolerant to others than ever before. Gay marriage has been legalized. Sex change operations are accepted. All modes of dress- from halter tops and shorts to burkas are seen on the streets. Acceptance and school accommodations for learning disabilities, autism, hyperactivity, physical disabilities and attention deficits are the norm not the exception. Employers cannot discriminate according to gender, race or religion. It all sounds good and right.
BUT- strangely enough we seem to have lost our way. In the environment of free speech and inclusion, free speech and inclusion are disappearing. And it seems that not enough people, including those espousing human rights on University campuses, are noticing.
Those in favour of abortion, or in favour of Israel are shut down and excluded from public discourse. Those who are concerned about extreme Islam and doubt the direction of “Islamophobia” are called bigots and anti- Muslim. Those who want to use normative pronouns are pilloried and fired. This is not free speech. It is censored speech. Free speech is respectful speaking and listening without descending to hatred and threats. Free speech has too often morphed into aggressive speech and action. Unfortunately violent and hateful rallies are happening here, in Canada, and on university campuses. There is a problem with how the population defines free speech and democracy.
It’s true- Black Lives Matter. However, ALL Lives Matter. White Lives, Men’s Lives, Women’s Lives, and Children’s Lives. Brown Lives, Indigenous Lives, Jewish Lives, Christian Lives, Muslim Lives, Somali Lives, Yazidi Lives ……..
Two weeks ago there was a demonstration in Halifax calling for the removal of a monument honouring Edward Cornwallis. The Mik’maq people are among those calling for the removal of the statue. Although the Mi’kmaq are marginalized indigenous people who have lost land and rights in Canada, their leaders ensured that the rally was peaceful. They understand that the “fight ” for human rights and recognition does not have to be violent.
Currently too many activists from the far left and the far right resort to violence, hate messages and even murder. It’s frightening to read about the attacks in Barcelona, Spain; Turku, Finland; Halamish, Israel; Charlottesville, USA; London, England; etc. etc. The behaviour of the Mi’kmaq is a model for discussion, understanding, and behaviour.
The balance of respect and dignity is part of justice. So when we read “Justice, Justice, you will pursue” let’s endeavour to bring that practice into our lives, our world,and the world around us.
With prayers for peace, acceptance and understanding,
Shabbat Shalom, Laya