Sunday, August 21, 2022

Answering the Alarm

A renowned 18th century Jewish storyteller known as the Dubner Magid told the tale of a rustic villager’s first visit to the big city.  Upon waking in the middle of the night to the loud beating of drums, the villager asked a resident what the fuss was all about.  The city dweller replied that a fire had broken out and the drumming was the fire alarm.

When the villager returned to his home, he told the local elders what he had learned: “They have an amazing system in the city—whenever a building catches fire, the people beat their drums and by morning, the fire is out.”

Hearing this, the elders distributed drums to each citizen of the village.   A few weeks later, when a fire broke out, there was a deafening explosion of beating drums—and as the people waited for the blaze to die out, numerous homes and businesses burned to the ground.

The next morning, a visitor from the city questioned the local residents: “What were you thinking?  Do you believe that beating the drums will put out a fire?  The drums just sound the alarm—then it’s up to you to get busy extinguishing the flames!”

I offer this parable because the alarms are going off urgently, all around us.  

Democracy, diversity and decency are existentially imperiled by radical reactionary extremists across our state and nation.  Idaho’s abortion ban is a moral monstrosity, exposing the utter hypocrisy of our elected officials who blather about freedom yet deny Idaho women their most basic human rights and religious liberties.  Judaism not only allows for but actively mandates abortion for women whose pregnancies endanger their health; our state’s new law effectively prohibits my community from living by the dictates of our faith tradition.  

Meanwhile, our governor and legislature continue to actively endorse bigotry against LGBTQ Idahoans, and curry favor from racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim militias who brandish assault rifles with the express intent of intimidating their opponents.  Despite unprecedented budget surpluses, we nonetheless shortchange the education of our children, and we consistently fail to act or even recognize the reality of catastrophic human-caused climate change, even as Idaho burns in record-breaking summer heat.  Worst of all, these regressive and deeply destructive policies are offered up under the mantle of white Christian nationalism, which insists—contrary to the wishes and writings of our country’s founders—that America is a conservative Christian state.

We are running out of time to turn back this assault on justice and compassion. As the Talmud teaches, the day is short and the task is great—and though no one of us can finish this sacred work of preserving our democracy from authoritarian hooliganism, we are all obligated to do our part.  We need to join together—Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans, young and old, male and female and non-binary, rich and poor, people of every color and ethnicity, folks of all faiths and of none—to respond to the alarms, lest our state and nation burn to the ground while we dither. 

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