People all over the world who believe in democracy were shocked and dismayed by what they saw happen in the U.S. capital this week.
As a movement, Humanistic Judaism does not engage in partisan politics. We’re invested in values. But values inform behavior—political and otherwise.
On January 6, the corrupted values of too many Americans culminated in an insurrection led by white supremacists and hate groups, incited by the president of the United States, which has laid bare the fragility of our democracy. It was terrifying to watch.
More than any other stream of Judaism, I’d argue, Humanistic Jews value facts and seek comfort in the truth. We trust science, we admire reason, and we are quick (some may say too quick) to point out the differences between wishful thinking and fact-based reality.
Today in America, too many citizens live in an alternate reality, not based in fact, and fueled by perceived grievances.
Fact: There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. 2020 election and Biden/Harris won by a significant margin in both the electoral college and popular vote.
That I fully expect someone to disassociate from us because I had the audacity to just write that obvious truth is truly depressing to me.
But as a movement, we have to be able to stand on our values and speak the truth based on evidence, especially since it has become painfully clear that telling this truth is not about “politics” but the very survival of our democratic institutions!
An entire communications ecosystem has been built to support an alternative reality of conspiracy theories and lies, anti-intellectualism, religious fundamentalism, white supremacy, and science denial.
And it is affecting every aspect of our lives.
Fact: Coronavirus is real, it has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans who were NOT otherwise about to die from underlying condition or age, and the U.S. response has been worse than almost any other nation on the planet.
I still see people denying this! Don’t they trust their own doctors?
Of all people, Jews should be most alarmed and push back hardest against conspiracy theories. Antisemitism is an element in almost all such delusions. Unfortunately, it’s not going to disappear with a new administration—though thankfully it won’t be coming from the president anymore.
So what can we do, as people who value reason? I wish there were a realistic quick fix. All the solutions are longer-term, but we must double down on our commitment to them:
- Continue to promote our values and speak the truth.
- Defend our humanistic values as American values: ALL people are created equal! And deserve equal rights, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. Those who stormed the Capitol Building do not stand for these ideals.
- Renew our social justice efforts on all the causes that will get us to that better, humanistic future: increased access to higher education for all (arguably the central differentiating factor between those who believe in or reject conspiracy theories); racial equity; separation of religion and government; LGBTQ+ and women’s equality; addressing the climate crisis; multiculturalism; and so much more.
- I just mentioned racial equity, but it merits its own bullet point. Law enforcement once again applied a double-standard for an armed white mob, when a crowd of any other races wouldn’t have made it onto even the second step of the Capitol Building before being mowed down. Humanistic Judaism is committed to fighting white supremacy. That includes educating ourselves about our role in ending it. We commit to undertaking that educational process in the months ahead.
If feels overwhelming. It is overwhelming! But there is hope. Our movement anthem may seem cliché to some, but I still believe it: my light is in me… and in you! We can build that better world together.
On the very day of that awful insurrection, the increasingly-diverse state of Georgia sent an African American and a Jew to the Senate! In two weeks, we will seat the first-ever Jewish Senate majority leader (and the first-ever New Yorker to hold that role, arguably more surprising!).
What we saw in the capital on Wednesday won’t be the last gasps of white supremacy, but we are winning. Humanistic, universalistic ideals are taking root in a growing number of Americans.
The more inclusive demographic shift may actually make non-democratic forces in our society fight even harder, scarily enough. But as we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, his famous quote has never seemed more prescient: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Thank you for being part of this community as we work together toward a better and more just world.
[Photo originally posted to Flickr by Tyler Merbler at https://flickr.com/photos/37527185@N05/50812482307]