Holy week, Passover, and Easter in the Kansas City Area were punctuated by a senseless act of violence at the Jewish Community Center and Shalom Village Retirement Home on Palm Sunday afternoon. Two adults and a youth were shot and killed.
The police have appropriately classified the shooting as a “hate crime.” The perpetrator was an anti-Semitic activist. Our hearts, of course, go out to the families of the victims. And none of us in Kansas City is unaffected.
As it turns out, ironically, all the victims were Christians. The news cycles have pointed that fact out often. But the religious affiliation of the woman, grandfather and grandson who were shot, should not be of primary importance to us. Nor should the fact that the grandfather and grandson were active United Methodists.
Friends are friends, and hate is hate. My clergy friends who are Rabbis point out that persecution and hatred of Jewish people did not end with the Holocaust, nor is it confined to acts of senseless violence like this one. They are right of course.
Hatred against Jews, or Muslims, or people of color, or homosexuals, or any other marginalized group is allowed to fester when we tell or laugh at an inappropriate joke, participate in isolating our children, or simply keep silent. None of us committed this crime, but all of us need to stop and ponder our own lives. It isn't enough to express outrage at the actions of this one man.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein told us the painful truth in the musical South Pacific in 1958. Racial, ethnic, and religious hatred is perpetuated generation to generation. And the words are relevant still today.
The song goes this way:
You've got to be taught to hate and fear.
You've got to be taught from year to year.
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear.
You've got to be carefully taught.
We each have room to improve, and work to do. Every parent, every grandparent, every citizen. And unless we do, acts like this will happen again. That’s the simple and painful truth. A more loving and tolerant world begins with each of us.