I’ve lived on this island now for almost 10 years. One thing I’ve come to value – in addition to Orcas’ natural beauty – is the shared sense of community. By and large, people seem to want to get along. Differences in religion, worldview, political party, basic values, wealth or lack of adequate income don’t usually result in yelling, name-calling or physical violence.
That’s why I am writing now as we approach local party caucuses to choose a presidential nominee, Republican and Democrat. As the presidential campaigns began, I was overwhelmed by the candidates’ anger, by their unreal claims, their TV fantasy solutions to real problems people face, and by their lack of civil discourse. Now I am angry, saddened, and deeply shocked. I feel a need to write this letter not because I know better than anyone else, but because I feel a deep responsibility to do something. For me, that means to say my piece publicly.
As a Jewish person, I’ve learned that the Old Testament (the Torah) is replete with mixed messages about how to treat the “other.” When Joshua conquered the land of Canaan, for example, the male survivors among those he defeated were put to death, the women enslaved, and salt poured upon the ground so nothing could be planted.
On the other hand, the Old Testament also says we should not put a stumbling block before the blind nor curse the deaf. It includes the idea of gleaning, that is, the owner goes through his fields only once; whatever is missed, or ripens after that, is left for the poor and needy to harvest. And to my mind, most majestic of all, is the idea of the Jubilee. Every fifty years all productive land, the Torah says, should be returned to its original owners (for free) so that landless families may start again.
I’m not saying these are practical ideas that we should adopt on Orcas in 2016. I am saying that the Torah, as I understand it, says I have a choice: I can choose violence, anger and hatred of others as a solution to problems; or, I can try to do unto others as I would have them do unto me.
Orcas is my home. It is our collective home. In our local caucuses, and then in our voting in November, I urge all of us to think as carefully and calmly as we are able about whom we support, and why. For myself, I want to follow a path of understanding and compassion. I don’t want my decision to be based on pent up anger (even when over real problems) and hatred of others.