A Letter to my American Friends
The Age of COVID-19, May 2020
As I read and watch what is happening now in the USA my heart shrinks. I think I can feel what you are feeling now. My prayers go to the family, friends and relatives of George Floyd, an African American man killed in Minnesota. The devastating picture of him being handcuffed and lying face down and a white American Police officer keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck will stay on the screens of our minds as a symbol of racism, hatred and lack of human compassion. It depends on our generation whether this is going to be the last symbol of hatred or we are going to see more symbols of its kind!
I am not in the position to pass any judgment on anybody but I think we need to do something to end racism here and now. Yes, today we need to pray for George Floyd and other victims of racism in the USA. However, the issue seems to be much deeper. It is a crystal clear that people of all nations, faiths and traditions should join in prayers to end racism. I am not that naive to think that this is going to be enough. Perhaps we should unearth all the roots of racism, hatred, irrational fears. And only after that commit ourselves to combat them until they are brought to the end. If we are not able to end them now, how are we going to deal with other challenges that threaten our civilization?!
„When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. “Wrote Abraham Joshua Heschel, more than half a century ago. I am afraid we still keep admiring not only clever people, but also affluent, successful people, powerful people, influential people.
In the process of our soul searching, perhaps we should admit that we as representatives of various religions and spiritual traditions have failed to foster kindness, compassion and empathy in our respectable communities and communions.
In the 19th century, we had a poet who lived in the mountains of Georgia and produced poems and literature of the greatest possible caliber. Had he been a son of bigger nation and language his name would have been universally known. His name was Vazha-Pshavela. As I was meditating about the challenge of racism in the USA one of his poem came to my mind.
You might like to join me in reciting a couple of lines from his poem:
O, God, please accept my prayers,
These are my supplications:
Do not let me stop remembering you!
Do not let me be disheartened in suffering,
Please do make me indomitable,
Keep me alert and make me always ready
to be a guardian of the oppressed.
I’d better be the grass to be scythed,
I don’t wish to be the scythe.
I’d better be a sheep,
Please protect me from being a wolf.
May George Floyd rest in peace. May God of optimism strengthen our hearts and minds in this time of sadness.