The Starfish 5778

Question:    Can we stop hate?

Answer:       . . . ?

It feels like the entire world, especially here in the United States, is in a kind of vortex, a whirlpool of hate and anger.

No matter which side of the spectrum you are on, the anger bubbles up and overtakes our minds, our bodies and yes, even our souls.

We have been here before. Some if us remember, some of us actually lived through this; some of us only remember what our parents and grandparents recounted; and some of us choose not to remember – or even want to listen.

In my family I heard both sides of the argument. My paternal grandfather was a high-ranking member of the KKK in his village in Oklahoma. Roy Ben Popejoy was the bank manager. At one point in his career, he decided to run for state office. When questioned about his affiliation with the KKK, he wrote an impassioned letter – with the KKK letterhead – expounding on the virtues of the Klan and all of the good and decent work that the Klan had done.

I never knew my grandfather; he died before I was born. I’m sure he was what our “esteemed” president would call a “ very fine person.” According to my father, he was a mathematical genius, attended math classes at USC and knew more than his teachers.

In my mind I have images of hooded men burning crosses on peoples’ lawns, lynching innocent African-Americans, harassing those who sympathized with the victims of their version of the pogroms of Eastern Europe.

The KKK is the epitome of evil.

Then there is the nazi party. Spell check keeps trying to tell me that the “n” in nazi is supposed to be capitalized – I made a choice decades ago to NOT capitalize the “n” because to capitalize it is to elevate the word beyond its virulent natural state.

To place the nazis on an elevated plane – or to hear the person who is supposed to be the leader of the free world call them “very fine people” – is something of which I am not capable of doing.

Our country, along with several other “free world” nations, fought a war against those momzers. Many REALLY “very fine people” died in order to keep them from their goal of murdering every fellow human being that they deemed “subhuman.”

My maternal grandfather z”l served on the War Crimes Tribunals so that those inhuman humans would pay for their crimes against humanity.

We need to remember that when HaShem created humans, he used dust from every part of the earth so that we, as God’s creations, would know that no human being is better than any other human being. There is no white race, black race, red race, brown race, yellow race – there is only the human race.

One of my favorite modern parables is this: A man is walking along the beach with a friend. The beach is covered with starfish, washed up as the tide is receding. The man begins to pick up starfish after starfish, throwing the stranded creatures into the water. His friend stops him and says: “Why on earth are you doing that? There are thousands of starfish! You’re never going to save all of them.” To which the man says, as he throws another starfish into the sea, “No, but I saved THIS one.”

In the winter of 1980, not long after his 4th wife had passed away, my father went to a meeting at a church. As he got out of his car he slipped on the ice and slid directly under a large pickup truck parked in front of his car. He was unable to extricate himself and another man who had just arrived for the meeting saw him and managed to pull him out, carried him inside (please understand, my father was 6’1” and weighed around 200 lbs.).

The rescuer was a local farmer, not as tall as Dad, but stocky and quite strong.

This, by the way, was in Abilene Kansas, a small, elite town – in fact, President Eisenhower’s hometown.

The following summer I visited my father. I met the man who rescued Dad. He was affable, pleasant even somewhat jovial.

We were invited to his farm for an evening “get-together.” At the end of the evening, the farmer asked me where in California I lived. I told him I lived in Hollywood. He asked if I knew where Upland was. I said I did. He then gave me an unsealed envelope with a letter inside and asked me if I would mind delivering the letter to his cousin who lived in Upland.

He said, in an off-hand way that work in Kansas was starting to dry up and he was hoping that prospects might be better in California. He didn’t have the exact address, but he gave me the name and phone number and I said I would get it to his cousin.

Remember, there was no Internet, I couldn’t just type a name into the computer and get an address.

I brought the letter home with me, and a day or so later I took a look at the envelope.

As I said, it was not sealed. In a way, I suppose it wad unethical to open the letter, but as it turned out, I’m glad I did.

I don’t remember the exact wording, but I remember that it was one of the most frightening pieces of writing I have ever read. To summarize what the farmer wanted to know from his “cousin” (I really have no idea whether they were actually related) was how soon he could come to California, how many weapons would be needed so that their war against the blacks and Jews could get underway as soon as possible.

The letter ended by saying (something like): “Let me know how soon we can start ridding the world of all the filthy Jews and Blacks.”

To say I was chilled to the bone is an understatement. I knew there were people like this, but I had never come face-to-face with it in this way. Looking back, some 37 years later, I suppose I could have called the police.

I didn’t. I showed it to my husband Ezra and we decided to destroy the letter. I did.

I have often mused over the fact that the envelope was unsealed. Was that by accident? Did the farmer WANT me to read the letter? Did he know I was Jewish (I don’t think the subject ever came up)?

Was there another force at work – Ha Shem, perhaps?

By destroying the letter and never acknowledging to anyone what happened to it, certainly didn’t slow or stop the hate that is an unfortunate strain in our country’s fabric.

Will we ever be able to stop the hate? Will we ever be able to keep some human beings from doing harm to other human beings?

Perhaps not. But at least I stopped this one.

G’mar Chatimah Tovah (May you be sealed for good)

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