Freedom Is A Burden That We Honor As A Legacy To September 11

This is a time of great sadness for us all.  While the loss will continue to be felt, the shock will wear off and we will find the proper ways for us to heal and to go on.  A message we are often hearing is that this is a time for unity.  Unity will help us persevere and heal, but to be truly meaningful and lasting, unity needs to come from shared concern and respect.  Unity is not about giving up our individuality, it is about honoring our national ideal that freedom is about protecting our rights as individuals.

Now is the right time to strengthen our freedom and create a living memorial to those who lost their lives.  We can do that by passing the proposed expanded federal hate crimes act.  We can then go forward as a people much more united at home and abroad. 

We have all just witnessed and experienced a hate crime, an attack against us merely because of our perceived shared identities as Americans.  Even those who were not living in NY or Washington DC now fear for their own safety.  That is the impact of a hate crime on a person or group merely because of their identity.  The entire group and the larger community fears that they are now at risk.  And in this case, there were casualties that were not United States citizens, but hate crimes do often result in other unintended casualties. 

Passage of the pending federal hate crimes act should be one part of our national response.  This would be a re-dedication and a clear demonstration to the larger, but ever shrinking world, of our nation’s deep belief in freedom and individual liberty.  We can respond with vengeance; or we can help repair the world (the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam); or we can be crushed by its despair.  Let us choose the positive path of repair.

To keep abreast of this issue log on to www.unitedagainsthate.com, a service organized by the National Leadership Conference for Civil Rights.  Through this web site you will be able to easily contact the President, the Attorney General, your senators, and your member of Congress.  Please encourage them to not only support – but to become a co-sponsor of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA).  Passage of the LLEEA will truly allow us all to share in the solution and to share in the healing.

There are moments in time, moments in history that provide an opportunity to grow and reach for a higher level of humanity.  Let this be one of those times.  Let us learn from this experience and take actions that can make us safer, more connected, more complete as individuals and as a community, and closer to the union with our higher or divine spirit however we each perceive it.

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Philip Deitch lives in St. Louis Missouri. He presently serves as the Chairperson of the Community Education Committee of the US Attorney’s Task Force on Hate Crimes and is a member of the National Commission on Social Action of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He is the former Vice-President for Social Responsibility at Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis.  Philip can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)                                                            9/2001

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