Recently, in a synagogue in Texas, an extremist took hostage several worshipers who were gathering for morning prayer. He threatened their lives. Fortunately, the hostages were able to escape. Unfortunately, the hostage taker was killed. Unfortunately too, this type of incident puts all the synagogues on edge, having to take protective measures to ensure the safety of their worshippers.
Most of us are able to pray in peace, to have the doors of our places of worship open in welcome, to hold prayer vigils or prayer meetings without fear of harm. We abhor violence. As the saying goes, “The only thing it takes for evil to persist is for good people to do nothing”. But as people of faith, as people of peace, as people of the Word, we can do better.
In America, we have normalized violence – in our movies, in our words, in political dialogue. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are extreme elements that would have us believe that violent speech and violent actions are legitimate reactions to people “different” from us. Different colored skin? A dress difference? A different religion? A different sexual orientation? It’s easier to protect those like “us”. It’s easy to fear what we don’t know.
We have the choice. The vast majority of us are good people, kind and generous, helpful to our neighbors, welcoming to the strangers among us. At the level of our humanity, we all want to enjoy the dignity, purpose and meaning of our lives.
We want to be seen and respected. We want our children to be safe. We want our family, our friends, our neighbors to be able to come together without fear. We must stand up and speak out against violence and for civility, respect and peace. Words matter.
Marguerite Chandler is a resident of Newtown.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Guest Opinion: Rejecting the normalization of hate-motivated violence