In all honesty, I have struggled this week during this empathy intervention. I tried throughout the week to find moments, interactions where I got frustrated, confused by the actions of others, and worked to see from their perspective. I looked at opposing views in politics as the upcoming election is around the corner, and our country remains divided. I looked at conflicts with my roommates as time and time again some struggle with cleaning up their messes. Although understanding the other side brought peace to my angst, none of these moments felt like substantial revelations to blog about. It wasn’t until I read the news about the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue that I was able to feel a deep level of empathy. With increasingly monstrous amounts of mass shootings occurring in recent years in America, I feel as if society, including myself, have become desentized to the issue. I mourn, get angry with the lack of legislative action, and unfortunately move on to the next piece of news that shakes up the world in a matter of weeks. All too often I look at the problem “otherizing” the community affected since they are detached from my seemingly comfortable, safe one. When the next disaster strikes, the impacts and losses of the shootings flee my present thought while that community remains devastated, angry, and helpless. The world soon forgets of the tragedy and our “thoughts and prayers” to the people affected evaporate with the lack of change.
The shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue struck a different note. Some of my closest friends and loved ones are Jewish and have been speaking out with words of heartache and deep insight about the hate they have felt for their faith. They view the victims as a part of their great, interconnected community brought together by their religion and are experiencing the loss as if it happened directly in their hometowns. This love and empathy has been inspirational, and their pain is shared. Through the sadness and compassion for the tragedy, I have learned about the broader implications coming from this shooting. I see the bigger picture that this anti-semitic hatred for one community stems from the empowered attitudes of many in our country that choose hate and fear over acceptance and love. No longer can I believe that these shootings are an attack on one separate community. I believe this is an opportunity for the rhetoric surrounding mass shootings to change. Rather than praying for a single community for their losses and gradually moving on with our personal lives, we must view this as a loss to all Americans, a loss that hurt all of our people. It is an attack on our people, against their faith and our values as a nation. These values are being tested and threatened, and now more than ever, we must join together with empathy and a passion for change.
I talked yesterday to an old friend for the first time in a while. He has become a rabbi and it was comforting to hear his words, “take action by electing people who reflect our values and the love you spread helps fight back against hatred everyday.” I can offer love, empathy, and compassion to every person around me, particularly those who are hurting even more deeply or are marginalized in this society. I will continue lead with this empathetic perspective to stand for all of my community. Always.