Use of an Obscenity

As Israel has settled on what we hope will be a lasting truce in Gaza, there will be much discussion in the world regarding Israel’s mission and tactics. It is important that there be boundaries in discussing Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Words matter a great deal, as does Israel’s existence in the world. Here is my column that appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star on August 20, 2014. It addresses a hate-filled column which appeared in the August 7 edition of the same newspaper. Both appeared in the Local View column on the Opinion page.

In recent days, an obscenity has appeared in the Journal Star’s opinion page. Obscenities, such as those made famous by George Carlin, are generally words which have been divorced from their original meanings and used for their shock value. For this reason there exist social mores regarding how inflammatory speech is used. Speakers, writers, and the publications which grant them a platform have a responsibility to know the meanings of their words and their potential impact. When they fail to exercise proper caution, they speak in obscenities, using powerful words, divorced from their real meanings, for the sole purpose of stirring emotion or winning an argument.
The obscenity in question is “genocide.” The articles which included this word were not about ISIS and the Yazidis, but rather about Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, a military operation aimed at ending rocket attacks and destroying a network of terrorist tunnels between Gaza and Israel. “Genocide” is a very powerful word with a specific meaning, and the way this word has been thrown around, far removed from its true meaning, is nothing short of obscene. The definition of “genocide” is “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” According to the legal definition used by the United Nations, there must be “intent to destroy.” Israel has no intent to destroy the Palestinian people. Israel has provided medical care, humanitarian aid, and even building materials (much of which was used in constructing the infamous terror tunnels) to Gaza. Israel’s attitude toward Palestinians and specifically the people of Gaza is anything but genocidal.
Still the word has been used because it evokes strong reactions. Any sensible person is against genocide. We all share a moral responsibility to prevent it, but to call Israel’s war in Gaza a “genocide” is to ignore the facts in favor of emotion. It also lays the blame exclusively at Israel’s feet and exonerates the Hamas terrorists who have fired over 3,000 missiles toward Israeli cities. This alone would be enough to understand the use of “genocide” as obscene. Unfortunately, with the cynicism behind its usage, it becomes even worse.
In 1944, a Polish Lawyer named Rafael Lemkin crafted the word “genocide” to describe the Nazis’ actions against Jews during the Holocaust. Those who call falsely call Israel’s actions genocide relish the irony that the once victim Jews are perpetrators of genocide. This ploy is cynical. It is sick. It is obscene.
We can only guess at the intentions for writing such misleading articles. At best, the writers are horrified by the killing and want, as do we all, for it to end. Unfortunately, even with best intentions, these writers are misinformed. Were Israel to lay down their arms, Hamas would continue to harass and murder Israeli citizens striving toward the goal clearly stated in their charter, that “Israel will exist until Islam will obliterate it…[and] the day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.” It is doubtful that the writers of such articles hope for Hamas to achieve the genocidal goals in their charter. Therefore, at best, we can see these writers as well-intentioned but grossly misguided.
As far as the worst case scenario regarding the intent of these writers, we can examine the quotes cited by Ruth Raymond Thone in her Local View column on August 8. She referred to a statement by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion which called for “terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation and the cutting of all social services… to the Arab population [in Israel].” Ben-Gurion never spoke these words. Media watchdog, CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East reporting in America, has time and again vetted the supposed source for this terrible quote and found that it was untrue. Though it has been debunked, it still appears on multiple anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic websites (and now in the pages of the Journal Star). We cannot know Ms. Thone’s or anyone else’s intentions for using these fallacious quotes, but we can reasonably guess which sources they have been reading.
All war is bad, and we should mourn the loss of innocent lives in Gaza and Israel. Still, while we might hold varying opinions regarding the methods and strategies employed by Israel to defend their citizens, we would do well to remember the words of the late US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
An important fact to remember is that “genocide” has a specific and very strong meaning. Its definition is not a matter of opinion. To misuse this word is nothing short of obscene.

The Power of Words Vs. Truth in Gaza Conflict

Words have meanings, and those meanings matter. It is therefore disturbing when people throw around words with blatant disregard for their true meanings, especially when those words carry a powerful emotional charge. Humans are emotional beings and we can barely help ourselves from responding to those triggers even when logic and facts might actually prove the opposite to be true. Misuse of such words is a cynical ploy by people who will do anything to win an argument rather than allow the facts to determine a just outcome. We encounter it in our personal lives, sometimes in our professional lives, and it has become all too common a tactic in domestic politics. It seems increasingly that arguments are meant to be won rather than proven. Facts be damned.

We hear the egregious misuse of very powerful words in relation to Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Israel’s opponents have long thrown around the word Apartheid, knowing full well it conjures images of the injustices committed against the black population of South Africa by the white minority. It is a common trope in discussions about divestment in Israel. The word is powerful, and its very mention evokes a strong response which clouds our vision from seeing Israeli Arab citizens who vote, who serve in the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), and who even sit on Israel’s highest court. To be sure, Israel has its share of racial tensions and bigotry, but so does the United States of America. Using a strong word like “Apartheid” is effective, however, when you want to win an argument. Facts be damned.

The other, still more disturbing word being employed against Israel is “genocide.” Genocide is the systematic killing of a group of people who share a religion, race, or nationality with the intention of eliminating them from the Earth. Such was the plan of Adolf Hitler against the Jews during World War II. It was his stated goal. He was proud of it, believing he would do the world a favor by ridding it of the Jewish problem. When we examine recent events in Gaza, we see a high death toll. Collateral damage of innocent men, women, and children who are killed in the crossfire is to be collectively mourned by all decent people throughout the world. But Israel has no desire to kill these people. They are stuck in the middle of terrorist rockets and public facilities being used to store armaments. Israel did not put them in harm’s way. The Hamas militants did. If Hamas wanted to protect Gaza’s citizens, they would draw the combat away from them rather than right into their midst. Or better yet, they would recognize that Israel will not tolerate a steady barrage of rockets being fired toward its cities and its airport, and they would simply quit instigating violence. Hundreds of lives could be saved right this moment. The battle in Gaza, or any of Israel’s wars, has nothing do with antipathy toward Muslims or Arabs. It has everything to do with quashing the terrorist threat against Israel’s safety and sovereignty.

The death toll is sickeningly high, and yes much higher on the Palestinian side. Yet, Israel is not in a war against Palestinians, it is engaged in a fight against Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the downfall of the Jewish state. Unfortunately the terrorists attack from within the civilian populations, storing rockets in UN schools, using hospitals as headquarters, shooting from residential streets drawing Israeli fire toward innocents. Sad? yes. Regrettable? Of course. But what other option does Israel have? Are they meant to continue living under constant rocket attacks, always ready to run into the nearest bomb shelter, to sit under the Iron Dome and pray that it does not miss? Do they wait for a direct hit on an apartment building, Ben Gurion International airport, or its nuclear reactor in Dimona? Do they simply wait to find out just how many tunnels have been dug underneath its border and how Hamas intends to use them in attacks against Israeli citizens? No. They are fighting back to defend their home. This is not genocide. It is a sophisticated military operation with the clear objective to eliminate the terrorist threats. By Hamas’s design, however, the line between combattant and non-combattant has been drawn quite blurry. Still, the warfare and the killing can end. Once Hamas agrees to a cease fire, or once their capacity to threaten Israeli citizenry is significantly weakened, the fighting will stop. But facts be damned. Genocide is a word employed by those who simply wish to win an argument and foment anti-Israel sentiment. It stirs emotions, conjuring images of concentration camps, gas chambers, and Einsatzgruppen, mobile death squads employed by Nazi Germany to wipe out entire villages one by one. And those who wish to defame Israel relish the irony that the Jewish state is now being called genocidal. It can be a persuasive argument. The problem: it is simply not true.

As far as identifying who is truly genocidal, let us compare two documents. One of the parties involved has these words in its foundational document:

“[I]t will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

And the other party has these words in its foundational document:

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it. The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him… The HAMAS regards itself the spearhead and the vanguard of the circle of struggle against World Zionism… Islamic groups all over the Arab world should also do the same, since they are best equipped for their future role in the fight against the warmongering Jews.”

The first of these documents is from the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The second from the Hamas charter. Which one of these sounds genocidal? Those who say the second, are correct, and if Hamas achieves their objectives, it would mean the end of Israel and a threat to all Jewish people. Those who say the first is genocidal are simply anti-Israel– facts be damned.

Giving Thanks For Righteous Gentiles – A reflection on the tragedy in Kansas City

During this zeman cheiruteinu, the season of our freedom, I would like to make a solemn acknowledgment of righteous gentiles in our midst. In light of the recent tragedy in Overland Park, KS, it is all too easy to focus on sinister, age-old bigotry which continues to haunt Jewish people still today. But, as we celebrate freedom, we can recognize that with most of our neighbors, whether or not we share the same theology, we share the mutual understanding that we are all imbued with inherent rights to believe, to worship, and ultimately to live in any way we wish so long as we do not bring harm to others. Without this acknowledgment, we would not be able to enjoy our freedoms. As Jews, we have many friends, allies who support us, who defend us, and who work with us to guarantee religious freedom and safety for everyone in our communities. Rabbi Mark Levin, from Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park where I was confirmed, wrote these words recently as part of his response to the attack:

“I wish… that you could receive the loving calls I am receiving from friends and clergy all over the wider metropolitan area and    indeed around the world. Our neighbors: Jews, Christians and Muslims are outraged that senseless murder would be aimed at our community. We live among friends, and that is very different from Pharaoh’s Egypt, Nazi Germany, or any other place in which Jews have suffered persecution.”

I too have received such calls from friends and clergy in Nebraska, not just because people know I grew up in Kansas City, but because they understand the pain all Jews feel when senseless violence is directed toward us. They want to express their love and care for our community who though distanced from the events by geography, still feel the wound in our Jewish hearts. These people are righteous gentiles, willing to befriend us, to support and defend us, in difficult times. It is important that we do the same for them whenever the opportunity arises.

It is therefore important to acknowledge the three victims of the heinous crime, none of whom were Jewish themselves. Each one died while making use of Jewish communal institutions. They were taking part in a community singing contest or visiting a loved one, normal actions taken out of shared interests which transcend any religious belief or cultural identity. Knowingly or not, they were friends of the Jewish people in the best way possible. In a way that would make Martin Buber proud, they did not see themselves as Christians or Jews as Jews. They only saw people they wanted to sing with and with whom they could share the responsibility of caring for aging parents. They saw the Jewish communal buildings as inviting places with wonderful resources which are meant to be shared. Nothing was I-It. It was I-Thou, people simply appreciating being with other people without consideration of difference. It was a model for peace and community relations which, I am grateful to say, had become quite ordinary. But the good feelings were momentarily shattered with the actions of one hate-filled person. Three Christians died from gunshots intended for Jews. By mere accident, their deaths prevented the killer from reaching his target. However, these victims did not choose to martyr themselves, nor would anyone have asked them to. They died simply because they were friends of the Jews modeling the humanity which can unite us all. They were righteous gentiles.  In this season of our liberation, let us give thanks for them and all other who enable our freedom.

Let  us remember and pray for the families of:

              Reat Griffin Underwood

              Dr. William Lewis Corporon

              Terri Lamanno

May the God of mercy grant them refuge in the bonds of everlasting life.  And may their memories abide for eternal blessing.  

Amen.

Perplexed at Passover- Cosmos and Questions

I want my child to be perplexed. This may sound like bad parenting, but I sincerely believe it to be the complete opposite of that. Having a perplexed child would actually be a sign that my wife and I are doing something right. Let me explain. My 5 ½ year old son, at my urging, has begun to watch the new Cosmos show with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The show is outstanding, and I am blown away that it appeals to both of us equally. My son asked specifically for the show the other day because “I want to learn about the world.” That was music to my parenting ears. And then I thought about him attending religious school, which he affectionately calls “God School,” and I grew concerned. In God School they talk about the Genesis story of creation and other stories from the Torah, and none of them are consistent with the mesmerizing science presented so beautifully by Dr. Tyson. When he realizes the disparity, he will be in a state that the great Jewish thinker of the 12th century Maimonides called “perplexed.” And that will be just fine.

As a rabbi, I love the Torah with its rich language, its captivating imagery, and the engaging narratives which have for millennia connected an inspired Jews to live ethical lives of goodness. I love the openness to commentary and the on-going debates about what the text really means and how we continue to embrace our ancient teachings even in the face of scientific discoveries which contradict descriptions found in the Torah. Ahead of his time, Maimonides, a rabbi, doctor, philosopher and rationalist, recognized the necessity of this discovery. Great joy can actually come from being perplexed because, as Maimonides taught, it inspires further study of both Torah and science. It leads us to ask better questions about each.

When we approach the Torah asking ourselves “how and when did these things really happen?,” we are asking the wrong questions. The better questions are what are we meant to learn from the biblical stories, from the laws, and the ethical codes? Those are questions that scientists cannot answer, and our time in Torah study is better spent tackling those big questions rather than wasting our time debating the unprovable, whether creation really took place in six days, or if there really was a great flood, or if the Red Sea actually parted. These stories, if we allow them to, can teach us much more. For example, six days of creation are followed by a day of rest when we quit trying to control all things and just exist in the world appreciating it as it is. The flood and the rainbow that follows teach us that there are be better ways to fight immoral behavior rather than just subduing and wiping out populations en masse. The Red Sea, with Moses raising his staff and the midrash about Nachshon ben Aminadav, teaches us not to simply wait for miracles, but that we have to participate in creating our own fortunes. Good lessons all.

With the Torah, there is so much more to learn than meets the eye in a plain reading. I hope my son will embrace this learning the way I have. Meanwhile, as we learn by watching Cosmos, the Universe is also filled with more secrets than meet the naked eye. I hope my son will always want to learn more about the world. At the same time, I also want him to be perplexed and to take joy in asking big questions about them mysteries and meanings of life. I want this especially as we approach the Passover holiday when asking questions and accepting nothing at face value are central to our celebration of freedom. Taking our cues from the Hagaddah which tells us at our seders, “we begin in shame but conclude with praise,” we at first approach all things perplexed. But this leads to questions. Questions lead to inquiry. Inquiry leads to knowledge. And knowledge is freedom. Therefore, I hope that my son will be perplexed so that he may eventually discover, in the spirit of Maimonides: science explains how we live, while Torah instructs how we might live well.

Have a Happy and Joyous Passover.

Increasing Happiness For All – Sermon From Shabbat Before Purim

I was at the Fringe and Tassel last week, a costume shop in the Haymarket looking for this year’s Purim costume. I of course, for the fourth year in a row, have been cast in a spiel as a woman, which was a challenge, because costume shops rarely are thinking of men or women built like I am. But I wanted to find just the right 60’s look so that I could help our spiel be a success, and of course, every now and then every rabbi just needs to feel pretty. I don’t have much experience with ladies’ clothing. I tried on what I thought was a mini-skirt, but as I searched for the zipper, I was informed it was actually a vest. Too bad, it was a very complementary color scheme on me. Then I tried on another skirt but gave up the moment I heard the rip. I finally settled on something a little more flowy and flowery, and got some high, platform boots to go with it. Why do I do I put myself through this? To help fulfill the Mitzvah at Purim of spreading happiness.

A familiar passage from the Talmud teaches: Mi she nichnas Adar Marbim besimcha .1
Whoever enters the month of Adar increases happiness.

This is Adar. And it is deemed the happiest month on the Jewish calendar for the celebration we will hold this weekend, the holiday of Purim. As we remember Esther’s great ordeal and how she saved the Jewish citizens of Persia, there will be lots of celebrating and fair amount of silliness. Of course the rabbinic command for Purim is to get so deliriously drunk that you can no longer tell the difference between good people and wicked, or specifically between Haman and Mordechai.2 I caution however that drinking to such excess is dangerous, and advise that perhaps we can be deliriously joyful with just adrenaline and ruach. We will for sure increase our own happiness, reading the Megillah, having a carnival, and doing our Beatles Purim Spiel, but more importantly we will increase the happiness of others. That is at least the goal. And, despite all of the frivolity, the goal of spreading happiness is very serious.
So tonight, I am not going to add to the silliness of the celebration. There will be plenty of that, believe me. Instead I want to talk about the more serious side of Purim and the secrets of the Book of Esther. Underneath this story, which is probably more allegory than it is history, there lies a very important lesson, in fact a foundational Jewish idea. The lesson is to be proud of who you are, for when you are true to yourself, good things can happen. No…Great things can happen. In the process you can increase your joy and spread joy to others too.

The plot of the Purim story is set up to make Esther a secret Jew, afraid to let anyone know who she really is for fear of losing her position or standing in society. It is a familiar theme even for us today. What Jew has not experienced this same feeling that Esther had? We have all felt it, perhaps in nervousness to discuss it with colleagues or new friends who might judge us or try to convert us. I confess, I still hesitate to discuss my occupation with passengers on airplanes because I just don’t want to go down that road. Struggling with identity continues today. It is a struggle we inherited from our parents’ and our grandparents’ generations. They often hid or downplayed their Jewishness. Some even changed or anglified their names to blend in. Even in this haven of America, there was a real fear of a very real glass ceiling in many professions. It was not uncommon for quotas to exist in universities and in the workfocre. The existence of Jewish hospitals in most major cities in America is a vestige of this sad truth. Having Jewish hospitals was the best way to guarantee employment to Jewish doctors. The establishment of Brandeis University can be traced back to the awareness that the nation’s most prominent universities put arbitrary caps on Jewish enrollment.
But every year, we, as did the previous generations, read and study this story which demands that we proudly proclaim our identity, not simply to protect ourselves but for the benefit of all Jews.

Esther’s hidden identity did gain her access to the highest ranks of the Persian court. And then when the chips were down, she risked her own life by approaching the king. But she hedged her bets well. She knew the king loved her. And she put faith in his ability to reason through the transitive property. I love Esther. Esther is Jewish. I love the Jews. And in the Shpiel we usually conclude, “The Jews were saved. Hooray.” In truth, the Jews were allowed to defend themselves and won. I call this an even bigger “Hooray” because again they took part in saving themselves, standing up to the enemy, instead of waiting for the king to do the dirty work himself. It is a great story that tells us, be proud of who you are. Don’t hide it. You may be inhibiting your own mighty deeds. Those mighty deeds can lead to happiness on a grand scale.

Such is our goal in the month of Adar, to increase happiness by being true to ourselves even if it means taking risks. We can thank those who came before us, who like Esther said we will not tolerate these differences and fought the system, even changing the system through sheer will. It had to take a great deal of Chutzpah and willpower for Jewish communities to open their own hospital and furthermore to establish an Ivy style private University in New England where the powers that be were so deeply entrenched. They founded organizations, like the Anti Defamation League to advocate for and protect the rights of Jews, and took their cases into the courtrooms and in the courts of public opinions. By letting it be known that they were proud Jews, and by ensuring quality education and fair opportunities, they forced others to think: I like my neighbors and my co-workers, they are Jewish, therefore I like Jews.
The struggle continues today. I still hesitate in unfamiliar settings to share my identity. I frequently talk to others who feel the same way. But typically such hesitancy comes from baseless fears that can be deeply engrained in the Jewish psyche, or frankly, sometimes we just want to avoid becoming embroiled in long conversations about it. But if we pay attention to the meaning of Purim and we wish to increase happiness for ourselves, for the all the Jewish people, and even perhaps to the newly converted friends of the Jewish people, we owe it to all to invite others to that revelatory moment. We invite them to say, I like you, you are Jewish. I like Jews. Thus we gain greater acceptance, making friends and allies. In short, the more we follow Esther’s lead, the happier we can be.

But Esther’s lesson at Purim is not just for Jews. It is a lesson for anyone who may feel like they have to hide their identity, to pretend to be someone or something they are not for fear of repercussions. Friends, this fear is very real, and still very well founded in our society. In recent months, we have seen bills pass in the state houses of two states, Kansas and Arizona, which would permit discrimination against gays and lesbians. Under these laws, they could be legally denied service in stores and restaurants, lose jobs, or be denied housing. Of course, one of these bills was vetoed, and one is still pending. We are also not far removed from the US Military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and our country still has many states, including our own, where marriages or civil unions between same sex partners are neither permitted nor recognized. All of these realities have created an environment where it hard for some of our good friends to be comfortable just being themselves. I am proud that the South Street Temple is a place where we have created a safe zone for all people and all types of families, and we join several other places of worship and schools and businesses around Lincoln in creating microcosms of the world as it should be. It is quite relevant to think about this issue tonight on the Shabbat before Purim. Our tradition tells us Shabbat is the day on which we model the rest and peace we wish to feel on all days as that peace spreads to the rest of the world. Shabbat is supposed to be every day. And that cannot happen unless the lessons of Purim remain with us every day. We must increase happiness for ourselves and invite others to share in it.

As Jews, from our narrative and history, we have a keen understanding of the power of intimidation. We know what it is like to hide our true identities. But we also know the acceptance and equality that can come from being able to proclaim who we are. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to keep working for change so that all people can proudly proclaim who they are without any fear of repercussion.

Friends, nearly two years have passed since the Lincoln City Council passed a Fairness Ordinance extending civil rights protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. It would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and in public accommodations. Sadly, this ordinance has not been implemented. Opponents of this fairness law quickly collected 10,000 signatures to block it .3 Many argue that they should have the right to vote on this matter. Others claim that there is no need for these special protections. But any group who has historically met with persecution and discrimination, which can be quantified and which still causes people to hide their true selves, do need special protections. They need to feel the freedom to step up, to proclaim who they are, and to know nothing but happiness. Therefore, let us help this ordinance at last be brought to the voters, and may we work to ensure that no one ever has to feel like Esther did approaching the king, that they have to fear being openly who they are.

Mishe nichnas Adar Marbim besimcah. This is the serious lesson of Purim. May we learn it well so that we increase happiness and freedom throughout the land.

1 BT Taanit 29a
2 BT Megillah 7b
3 http://journalstar.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/opponents-to-fairness-ordinance-hand-in-signatures/article_ada304ba-ef86-5ee5-8ec4-79ee7352d8eb.html

“It is not the death of sinners I seek…” – My thoughts on the death of Fred Phelps

Like many others, I have been confronting myself about my feelings regarding the death of Fred Phelps. Ezekiel proclaimed, “God does not desire the death of sinners but that they turn back from their evil ways and live (Ez 33:11).” Of course Phelps never recanted or turned back, but still, we refrain from taking joy in his death. The famous midrash (Babylonian Talmud, Sandhedrin 39b) teaches that God admonished the angels who sang in celebration as Pharaoh’s army was destroyed. “How can you sing while my creation drowns in the sea?” God questions. And thus we have the theological conundrum: “God makes peace and fashions evil (Is 45:7).” All things are God’s creation, and all people, good or bad are b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image (Gen 1:27). Therefore we do not rejoice in any death. At Passover, we go so far as to remove from our cups a drop of wine for each plague to remember the suffering of our enemies.

But still, the Israelites sang at the shores of the sea (Ex 15:1-27). What set their song apart from that of the angels? They sang, not for joy that others died, but rather for relief at being freed from oppression. If it is improper to rejoice for Phelps’ death, perhaps we might instead feel relief because a very loud voice for hatred and intolerance is about to be silenced.

If only his ideology would have died with him.

This is a time to mourn. We mourn that someone employed his charisma, power, and influence to spread seeds of hate. We mourn for the pain that he brought to many thousands in the LGBT community and the people who love them. We mourn for lives which were destroyed because of his teachings. We mourn for the people who were frightened to enter their houses of worship when he intimidated them with loud and offensive protests. We mourn for the additional suffering he brought to grieving military families. There is no joy to be had in Phelps’ demise. We can only grieve for the pain he caused and that he never turned back from the error of his ways.

The task at hand is for the living to turn back his wickedness and hope that those he influenced might ultimately reject hatred in favor of love and understanding. Therefore, rather than expending energy celebrating or protesting his l funeral as some sort of “what goes around comes around” effort, it would be best to model acceptance and tolerance, the opposites of everything that Phelps stood for. Let us allow his family to mourn in peace, and then afterward, let us work dilligently to combat the hatred he sowed.

May our task be to destroy hateful ideas, not people.