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Parkland, Florida: Seeing the Signs

Dear Friends:

It’s intolerable that I am writing to you, yet again, in mourning for lives lost at the hands of a mass shooter, this time in a Parkland, Florida high school. Seventeen students and educators taken too soon, again leaving families torn apart. Others hospitalized and a community left in shambles. Of course, I am sad. But I am also among those who are furious. How many times do we have to bear witness to a preventable massacre?

There is a lot of talk now about seeing the signs. Let’s face it. The signs were there. But the one I am not hearing enough about right now is hate speech and those who promote it—a mention or two in passing, and then back to other signs.

Today we learned that the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, may have been associated with the white supremacy group Republic of Florida. He flagrantly published insults against Muslims, Black individuals, and law enforcement on social media. And then he killed. It is clear that hate and hate speech correlate to hate crimes. A disturbed young man, inflamed by bigotry. What do we expect?

We must not underestimate the danger of hate. It lays the foundation for mass killings and atrocities. And yesterday’s murderous rampage was no less than that—an atrocity. A criminal act that needs to be named: White Supremacist Terrorism.

Hate is more than graffiti on a wall or words on a social media post. It’s a sign. One of the gravest.  And we need to talk about it.

In mourning,
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO
P.S. Tanenbaum works to prevent marginalization and bullying that can lead to hate and extremism. Multiple news outlets report that Cruz likely was bullied in school. This reminds us that he suffered even as he has inflicted so much suffering. But it also shows that inclusivity matters. Your support for Tanenbaum matters.

Texas: Words Alone are Failing Us

Photo Credit: Nick Wagner | AP

Friends,

After the Las Vegas massacre a mere 37 days ago, I, among many others, said that thoughts and prayers from the public and politicians alike—no matter how genuine and supportive—are not enough. Sadly, yesterday, the inadequacy of words alone proved to be all-too-true, as Sutherland Springs, Texas experienced the worst church shooting in this country’s history. At least 26 men, women, children and one unborn were murdered and 20 others injured during their sacred Sunday service at the community’s First Baptist Church.

What to do now is clear, but by no means easy.

  • We must stop attacking each other, and start attacking the hard issues that affect us all.
  • We must stop labeling each other.
  • We must stop only assigning the “terrorism” label to events involving Muslims—when in fact, terrorism and deranged criminals both intentionally carry out horrific slaughters. The harm is one and the same.

And perhaps most of all, we must stop thinking that the threat from abroad is greater than the threat from within.

Words alone are failing us. We must demand that our leaders take action, rooted in facts—like the fact that a history of domestic violence, not race or religion, is a common thread among mass murderers, including yesterday’s shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley. If we don’t, I fear that I’ll be writing you again in another 37 day’s time.

This is the time to work together as allies. Because above and beyond all other identities, there is one we all share—that we are human.

In solidarity,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Las Vegas—Are Thoughts & Prayers Enough?

Photo Credit: Chris Carlson | AP Photo

Friends,

Yesterday, we awoke to our nation’s deadliest mass shooting in recent history. Again, our elected representatives—and scores of everyday Americans—joined the nation in grief, sharing their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. These words of comfort come from a sense of solidarity, shock, and horror. For many, they also often come from faith. It is therefore incumbent upon us to ask ourselves whether our heartfelt expressions are all that are required of us.

Our nation’s “thoughts and prayers” have been with too many victims, friends, and loved ones from Sandy Hook, Orlando, San Bernardino and now Las Vegas. It is sad but true that we remember and pray for the nearly 33,000 Americans killed each year by gun violence. Sending thoughts and prayers is an act of solidarity. But without transformative change in our willingness to prevent these national tragedies, we will continue to witness unacceptable levels of violence and death.

Just as our great faiths and traditions urge us to pray for victims and survivors, they also urge us to act.

So, what is one simple and practical step that each of us can take to make our response to THIS tragedy different from ones before? Those of us who believe can review what our sacred texts ask of us—and decide if words alone are enough.

After tragedies we must come together and mourn. We must help those victimized to heal. And we must work to create the change that stops this from happening. Otherwise, we risk becoming part of the problem.

See what some of the world’s great traditions have to say…

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

BAHÁ’í
Let deeds, not words, be your adorning. Bahá u’lláh, Hidden Words Persian 5

BUDDHISM
Whoever, by a good deed, covers the evil done, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from clouds. Dhammapada 173

CHRISTIANITY
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-21

HINDUISM
The wise see knowledge and action as one; they see truly. Bhagavad Gita 5.4, 5

ISLAM
Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” Narrated in Shaih Muslim.

JUDAISM
I call heaven and earth to witness: whether Jew or Gentile, whether man or woman, whether servant or freeman, they are all equal in this: that the Holy Spirit rests upon them in accordance with their deeds! Midrash, Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 10

SIKHISM
By their deeds and their actions, they shall be judged. God Himself is True, and True is His Court. Guru Granth Sahib (34)

NATIVE AMERICAN
It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace. Shenandoah

ZOROASTRIANISM
A thousand people cannot convince one by words to the extent that one person can convince a thousand by action. Denkard 6.31