Rabbi Allan’s Message – Friday, November 11th
Here we are, on Remembrance Day 2022, somehow and with great frustration, continuing to find meaning in this day. This message may be TLDR (“too long, didn’t read), but I’ll take my chances.
Time has passed since Canada last fought directly in wars in distant lands. The memories of those who fought for our way of life continue to stay alive, even if those who loved them or knew them are no longer with us. My daughter and I visited a small rural town a month ago, and there in a small park, we saw a stone monument bearing the names of far too many young men from that community. Behind those names are far too many families and friends who suffered deeply as a result.
In some ways, this day is also “Reminder Day” – of the horrors of war, so that we might learn from the past. But here we are again rediscovering the insanity of war, this time an unprovoked attack by Russia into Ukraine, with brutal images of the human costs that are beyond belief…. somehow supported by a rhetoric justifying acts of violence that are non-human and insane, all to move a line on a map.
These days, I am reminded that wars are not only between countries, but can readily show up in our own backyards. Our human capacity for war inevitably arises out of our tendency towards tribalism: to band together and stare outward towards those “outside” of us and to “other” them – to demonize and finally to hate them, and to strip them of their humanity, their faces and their names and their right to life. That’s how people can shoot each other and bomb each other into oblivion.
Today, I see “war” far too close to home. Nowadays, it is all the vile words spoken by too many politicians amplified by irresponsible media voices seeking soundbites and great ratings. We no longer disagree; we attack, and our opponents are dehumanized, labelled, hated, and targeted. And somehow, we get to freedom convoys, January 6 and attacks on 80-year-olds like Paul Pelosi.
The differences between tribalism and community are subtle but hugely important. Communities know how to talk to each other, respectfully. Tribes choose to drown out the voices of others. And that becomes our choice: War in our own backyards. Or not. Today, we can choose “war no more” in how we engage with our neighbours and in who we choose to represent us and our communities, by making it clear what discourse we will or won’t accept, and by watching for and rewarding potential candidates or leaders who are respectful of those who disagree, rather than those who embrace the politics of division.