Labels Disable

In light of the social protest in America that is spreading throughout the world, I posted something on my Facebook page this week supporting the pain that is being expressed.

My page exploded with people feeling strongly on all sides, many politicizing the issue, many expressing their “disappointment” at my ignorance, naivete, and some basically telling me to “stay in my lane”. In other words, stick to teaching Jewish values.

What they did not understand is that this issue is in my lane, and it should be in the lane of every Jew, for every person is created “b’tzelem Elokim”, in the Image of G-d. And as Jews, when we see people not being seen or treated in that way, we cannot be silent.
After hundreds of comments and debates on my feed, where does that leave me in terms of how I see my Facebook “friends”? I was struggling, and then I decided to “live what I preach”.

Our rabbi taught us that the definition of sinat chinam: ‘senseless hatred’ is when you hate someone because their mistakes are different than yours. “That I would never say/espouse/do!” We believe you, you wouldn’t. But there are other things you would say/espouse/do.
Because of politics, the families we come from, the media we watch, the social media heroes we follow, we all create “blind spots”. Everyone has their own. Yours may be different than mine.

We can hold two different, seemingly contradictory ideas at once: one has the right to march and protest and demand change, but one does not have the right to resort to violence while protesting.

So, too, I can accept that the many people who spent their Sunday debating on my Facebook feed and exposing their blind spots for all to see are also good people.

For those who began to label me, I will tell you that when I moved to America I was shocked that at the DMV you were asked to “register” your party affiliation. In Canada, there is no such thing. Thankfully, there was a choice to be an “Independent”. Because when I vote, my affinity is not left or right, it’s “Up”. I look to the Jewish values we were entrusted with at Mt. Sinai, and with as much thought and guidance I try to apply those values when I cast my vote. On some issues, you would label me “left”, on some, “right”.

There is a saying that we use at Momentum all the time: “Labels disable.” Our identities are so much richer and infinitely more complex than any one label. Labels naturally divide – you are this and I am that – and make us lose sight of the values we can all agree on: such as the value of human life.

It’s not easy, there is a myriad of issues and we are living in very complex times. It is not always easy to be real with our blind spots and know what the right thing to do is. Thankfully, I have people outside of social media who I respect and are tremendous sources of wisdom in my life, who always help me to step back, and always, always, look Up.



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