Much Needed Prescription: A Large Dose of Preventative Medicine

Prompted by bias, prejudice and misinformation, hate seems to be in evidence anywhere and everywhere we look; and, its pervasiveness is causing an epidemic of violence that seems to be growing in intensity day-by-day.

People, who disagree with one another, are screaming and yelling at one another; they have forsaken civility and are shouting obscenities while threatening to bodily harm each other.

Extremists – driven by rage – are acting out their anger, fear, frustration and suspicion; they are taking matters into their own hands and are wantonly snuffing out the lives of innocent victims on school campuses, in once quiet neighborhoods and even on supposedly secure military bases.

The by-product of all this is manifold: angst is running rampant; stereotyping is causing individuals and groups to pull away rather than to grow closer together; societal partnerships are in jeopardy; the roots of our democracy are rotting away because of the presence of a torrent of toxic words and actions.

What steps can we take to rid our communities of this hate-infested cancer before it is too late?

During my many years as a social justice activist, I have found that people who know one another – even those who have well defined disagreements – cannot and do not allow hostility to reign supreme; rather, they find ways to resolve those problems, which are soluble, and to live with those issues that have no lasting solutions.

Therefore, especially during these times, which are ripe with stress for a number of obvious reasons, each and all of us must invest time and energy to find the means to become familiar with those who are “strangers among us;” this can only happen when we exit our comfort zones, enter and sustain dialogues with folks with whom we have “differences,” and – together with them – help to build “communities” in which there are not just like-minded stakeholders.

A number of examples come to mind, but – for the sake of brevity – I want to share with you some of the direct benefits derived in the midst of our protracted Muslim-Jewish Dialogue in which a number of Los Angeles clergy and secular leaders have been participated through the years:

A. We have nurtured friendships that are unconditional.
B. We have found effective ways to avoid becoming entangled in Middle East- related crises.
C. We have learned from one another about each people’s belief systems and folk-ways.
D. We have drawn close to one another to offer solace during moments of torment and to celebrate high moments of human achievement.
E. We have focused on responding to local needs – whether or not they affect any or all of us.

In essence, when we are accustomed to talking candidly with someone, it is all but impossible for us to yell at that person – our knowledge about that individual, our shared experiences and our growing mutual respect become a safety net, which is impervious to all of the destructive and negative forces which would love to tear it to shreds.

Rabbi Freehling served for three decades as the Senior Rabbi of University Synagogue here in Los Angeles before serving for seven years as the Executive Director of the now defunct City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission;  his current assignment is Deputy Chief of Staff for Field Operations in the Sixth City Council District.


Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s