As some of you know who follow this column on a regular basis, I am not particularly religious in any formal sense and certainly not Jewish. But I have always had great sympathy for the Jewish people, having been exposed, unlike Mel Gibson, to the horrors of the holocaust in my study of history.
For that reason, I also admire Israel, the Jewish state. Since their beginnings, Israel has been what statesmen might call “a ray of hope” for democracy in the middle east.
Since my daughter had the good sense to marry a Jewish man whom I am honored to call “son” and even more honored when he calls me “dad,” and they have given me the loves of my life, three wonderful grandchildren, my exposure to the Jewish religion has of course grown as I have insisted, though without opposition from my children, that my grandchildren be exposed to all things Jewish as it will be part of their heritage, a heritage, like the heritage from their mother’s side of the family, they should always be proud of.
Recently, visiting the fam in La La land, I had the pleasure of going to my granddaughter’s pre-school to witness a special Jewish celebration in which she was singled out as the school celebrated her fourth birthday. As I stood watching the teachers dancing with their charges, I was reminded that the last time I had been in a church setting where people joyously sang and danced was when I attended a Black Southern Baptist church many years ago. It brought home to me that while we worship in our own way, we have much in common in how we celebrate what we believe.
As we exited the celebration, returning to our cars, I was also reminded, however, at how religion also divides us as I saw the armed security guards patrolling the parking lot, looking around like secret service men for an antisemitic threat. It brought back my constant fear that my grandchildren being half Jewish will have to spend the rest of their lives recognizing that part of their heritage will also include even the threat to their lives simply because they are Jewish.
We live as human beings with a dark side, George Lucas had it right, which infests so many with reasons to hate based on nothing more than tribal differences. I’m sure there is a sociological basis, a psychological basis for this but what is important is that it exists and no contestant in a beauty contest who wishes for “world peace” will change that dynamic.
Politicians and pundits talk today of “existential threats.” The overriding such threat is the threat posed by our own self destructiveness in the name of this religion or that religion. It seems axiomatic that as humans, we have the unending ability to pervert even the most well intentioned ideas embodied in religions initiated with the best aims in mind.
And therein lies the problem we face today with radical Islam.