The year is newly born, yet through the lens of ethics things feel quite stale.
The clarity that should come easily when as a country, we are faced with ethical challenges, eludes us and sadly, our teenagers.
This evening, the news reported that yes, in fact, the White House made a mistake by not sending a noted and visible government official to the protests in France. This admission by our leadership, came a full day after everyone was shaking their heads in confusion about why the U.S. was absent from such a history-making event.
On January 11th, Paris was the place to be, a place where world leaders and millions gathered to support the lofty goals that make us human.
The coverage yesterday billowed with those intangible ideals that some risk their lives preserving.
What could have been more clear than for the U.S. to show support not only for the freedom of free speech (#JeSuisCharlie) but for freedom of religion (#JeSuisJuif). Both exemplify the values our country was founded upon.
Ideals are the very thing that inspires our youth, especially Jewish teens. Our teens need to see that the world has the capacity to stand up against anti-Semitism, terror, and cruelty. That’s the message that we would want our civic leaders to share.
In today’s times, when our youth need to grow up with a clearer ethical direction, instead they often experience the swampy murkiness of political correctness, hedging, and wishy-washy behavior.
Yesterday for me was a chance to purge ourselves just a tiny bit from the overwhelming heap of moral misses: cheating on tests by school districts, abuse by teachers, stealing by politicians, abuse of power by the famous and infamous, and an increasing distrust of those who serve to protect us.
What better time than now, to reflect on what has the potential to make humans great, instead of what havoc has been created from terrorists.
Our teens hear too much from the dark side and subsequently, the downside of being Jewish. The past year has been challenging to embrace Judaism and its future. This was the year of the Gaza war, the signed petition by university academics boycotting Israel, the increased visibility of the BDS movement, and the Pew report on the disaffiliation rates of American Jews that take their searches for meaning outside the typical synagogue experience. Hitting closer to home was the debate about Open Hillels and the USY controversy, creating many opportunity for rich discussions, but when not taken, just causing more confusion and bewilderment.
Yesterday, at least for that day, although I hope and pray for much longer, we could have thought about the fact that Jews are not in the freedom fight alone. There is a world of people out there who care about fairness, innocence and who are willing to call evil and terror just what it is.
Reporters worldwide were talking about Anti-Semitism in France, for the first time.
And Jewish educators felt vindicated: yes, there are these horrible things that happened and the world took notice.
Except their own country was not visible on that day. And yes, it was a big deal and a big loss.
(I wonder how the history books will retell the march in France….would it be noted as the historic event it was, or will be downplayed because the U.S. did not participate?).
It is up to us then, to make sure that the lessons of the day, unlike the transitory images on the screen, don’t disappear. I am embarrassed that my country did not choose to be visible and laud this event for what it was: an opportunity to gain moral clarity for our teens.
Photo courtesy of Gratisography.com