It All Comes Down To Hope
We’re going a little off-topic today because I feel like it. I want to talk about this fantastic “Stronger Than Hate” patch I just received from the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. Now, everyone that knows me, knows that I am a Montreal Canadiens fan through and through. I bleed blue, blanc et rouge. Yes, I have come to like my Minnesota Wild too – although they aren’t like the old North Stars. But I deeply admire the Pittsburgh Penguins and their Foundation. And none of what they have done to earn that admiration has to do with anything accomplished on the ice. It was for what they did off the ice.
Tree of Life
I’m sure that most everyone is aware of the stunning shooting that occurred in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27th. The attack, by an anti-Semite, left 11 people dead and 7 wounded. Most of these were the elderly at morning Shabbat services at …a synagogue. A synagogue, night club, mall, college campus, elementary school, high school, gas station, grocery store, outdoor concert …the list goes on. And these are all from recent memory. The increase in these attacks can’t help but have an impact on society.
It’s sad that I find myself saying this – but what made this act so profoundly traumatic was the pure hatred, racial and religious, that motivated it. Bald-faced hatred of a nature that hasn’t seen prominence since the 1940’s …and that wasn’t even in the United States.
It’s equally sad that I just noted that a given mass-shooting was more traumatic on the national conscience than another mass-shooting because of the motive. The victims are just as dead. Their families are just as broken. And the communities affected are just as devastated.
That’s why I am so impressed with the Penguins Foundation. In answer to this tragedy they developed a giving plan that generated private funds from auctions and sales of the patch pictured at the top of this article. Those funds go directly to the synagogue. The patch, which the Penguins now wear on their uniform, signals the first time that the Star of David has ever been seen on a uniform of a major professional sports franchise. The patch is sent to you for a $20 donation.
I donated because I thought it was a fine effort by the franchise and foundation – and more importantly a VISIBLE effort. I thought it was important to bring awareness of what happened to an arena other than the nightly news cycle. It brought it to hockey arenas and out into the public through a medium that people don’t normally associate with this kind of information.
They weren’t worried about the politics of taking a stand against hate….even if that does seem like, universally, a pretty good idea And they knew they weren’t going to be impactful by pretending they knew the Squirrel Hill community well enough to show up as volunteers and have an impact. They did the best thing that an economic engine like a sports franchise can do – they provided exposure and funds directly to those who are doing the important work of rebuilding that community. That is worthy of admiration and respect and I am proud to have donated to help.
But Wait, There’s More!
Sadly, though, this is not the only place where people need help. Weeks after the hurricane that devastated the Florida panhandle, there are thousands of homeless people, living in tents because there are no other resources. Ann Weaver Johnston, who lives in Panama City, posted a before-and-after picture of her neighborhood. I thought the after picture bore a strong resemblance to Beirut. It’s absolutely shocking the conditions that people are living in down there – and how little help has come their way. California is suffering a similar situation with the wildfires.
The news cycle passes moves off of stories like Florida when the next salacious bit of suffering or drama rears its head. Not keeping the public eye focused on these issues is what allows politicians to quietly turn their attention elsewhere. I will say again, as the wealthiest nation on earth, I am shocked and saddened by the administration’s lack of response to these disasters, and the utter incompetence that FEMA and other federal agencies have exhibited in coming to the aid of their citizens.
We Can Do Better
I have a friend from my days in Kentucky – Reagan Maloney. She is an amazing friend and remarkable woman. She posts on Facebook occasionally about the trials and frustrations she feels as she encounters divisive behavior and actions incomprehensibly incompatible with who we are as a country. What drives her passion, I am convinced, is that she knows we are all better than this. That the nation is better than this, and to see the sheer number of incidents that exemplify intolerance ignites a spark of disbelief and social justice.
I entirely understand this. What has been going on lately doesn’t even look like the United States I know. Yes, it has its problems –and I could type all night naming them – but it IS better than what we’ve seen recently. Reagan uses her voice to drag issues like these out into the light. I value what she has to say because she has the courage and conviction to say what’s in her heart. Some might call that leadership. She’s not a politician, she is just a regular person who is an active and informed citizen. That’s the America I know. The Reagan’s all over this country are the threads that hold this tapestry together and hold ourselves accountable. She’s right. We can do better.
Yet There Is Hope
In the face of all these challenges, and all this suffering within the borders of the greatest socio-political experiment on earth, I still find reason to hope. I see the incredible generosity of friends and neighbors in Panama City helping each other – and the many stories of perfect strangers helping each other in the California fire zones – and the supporters of the Squirrel Hill community – and I have to believe that the largest portion of this country does not believe in hate. Sometimes, in the absence of true leadership, some people will listen to whoever steps up to the mic. I have hope that the character of the country is stronger than the character of those who would perpetrate such acts as that which has been visited upon the Tree of Life Synagogue.
But while I prefer to focus on the good that people do – we still have people living in tents. We still have people with homes that have become little more than cinders. And we still have places being shot up almost monthly. When will we see change? When will we see action? Soon, I hope.
The Last Word
Linnea Harju gave me a wonderful idea about what to do with that patch. It will go on my future motorcycle jacket next spring when I hit my goals and buy my Royal Enfield motorcycle. It’s nice to tie the positivity of what the Penguin’s Foundation is doing with the positivity of what I am doing – even if it is in a superficial way. It makes me feel good to have done something, though small it may be. And…it gives me hope.