Well it’s been a really busy last few months and I make no excuses for having not written. I’ve been consumed by a musical – my first since 2001. It was the hardest role of my life and I have been rapt by the process for months. The play was about antisemitism and racism in the deep south in the years after the Civil War – and the racial and antisemitic things that have been happening around the world and here at home made me feel like I was a part of something important. It was an amazing experience and one that maybe I “should” have chronicled but just getting through it was so emotionally and physically exhausting that I couldn’t write about it. It was terrifying – I tackled it – I got good reviews for my performance – it was a success. I’ve felt a lot of drive to come back here since the show closed a couple of weeks ago yet have felt empty – not that I don’t have anything to say quite the contrary in fact but simply that I didn’t have the emotional energy to expend. I guess I needed time and space to recover – I think I’m still recovering but it’s time to come back to this special place with all of the very wonderful people who give me so much love to tackle all of the difficult issues of the day. It’s time to get back to work.
I have come to recognize that my mission in life and in all of the work that I have done in my professional life has been around promoting understanding. Whether that was through supporting and advocating for the needs of individuals with disabilities, spending time as a legislative assistant listening to and communicating with constituents, working in homes with families helping them to better understand each other, working in schools and communities encouraging young people to open their hearts and minds to people with different abilities, as a therapeutic writing and drama instructor for at risk and under served adults, children and teens, as Director of Cultural Arts and Jewish Education in a Jewish Community Center, in my freelance writing, as an advocate for alternative education, this blog and my show “It Runs in the Family” in which I talk about my own experiences with mental illness in my family and my own struggles with anxiety and depression. I have a passion for pointing out our human sameness, building common ground and then breaking down the different experiences that make us unique – but finding our sameness first. Maybe this is the right way – maybe it’s not I’m open to suggestions.
There is very little black and white in my world – it’s mostly gray. Humans from different backgrounds are not so different – maybe on the surface but not at our core – yet our evolutionary success has depended upon our animal need to separate, define, and categorize things as good, bad, safe, unsafe and often the unfamiliar things or things that we label as “other” function as bad, unsafe or not necessary to our own survival so they are dismissed at best and judged negatively at worst. Our world has grown both larger and smaller with the invention and development of such magnificent technology. This has given us great power and in the words of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben “With great power comes great responsibility.”
We no longer have the luxury or excuse of being ignorant. It is time to speak out about injustice, racism, our own prejudices and why they exist – fear and unwillingness to change. I am at times lazy and tired and overwhelmed by the pain in the world – sometimes I just want to watch tv and play Candy Crush and I do. But I am also consumed by a sense of responsibility for my fellow human and the pain that consumes communities – including my own as a Jewish person seeing the complex and terrifying realities in Europe and the Middle East and even here in the US occurring with more frequency all the time. But I am also consumed with a deep desire to face race issues in America and understand things that I have no real way of internalizing – what is it like to be a black or brown person in this country? I can’t know but I would like to better understand.
Certainly, this subject matter isn’t light or humorous but it is what weighs on me the most these days and all the days of my life. Maybe because I grew up weird and misplaced I know deep down what it feels like to be – or feel – misunderstood and so I have spent my entire adult life focused on the concept. That would be a pretty textbook explanation of this deeply rooted motivation – but no one has ever shot at me because of the color of my skin, no one has ever pulled me over because they thought I should be driving a less nice car – 1. I don’t drive a nice car – so no worries there… 2. Being a nearly middle aged, white mother of 3 means that I am more likely to be ignored or given a pass – whatever the case may be – I am not treated worse because of my skin color, I am treated better. As a Jewish person I may receive some prejudice but at least I get to walk into a room and establish a rapport with a person before they have the opportunity to judge me or make offensive comments. It’s the same and different.
What it boils down to is that I don’t want to be judged because of my skin, religion, hair color, style of dress or any other aspect of my person that does not reflect my character or values. I imagine no one else wants this either. It’s time for us to talk, to try and understand but really it’s time to listen to each other, to have awkward conversations but to listen. That’s where I am right now. I hope you will join me in conversation, listening, and whatever else comes up on this journey toward understanding. I’ve missed you all and I look forward to what’s to come.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.