As Americans, most of us typically take stock of our lives with the passage of each year. That is why the "New Year's Resolution" follows the sins of the triad of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Presumably, that is also why the three biggest resolutions people typically attempt -- mostly in futility -- are to lose weight, stop smoking and cut down/stop drinking. It would figure that the three biggest vices excoriated by society are those people celebrate and very soon thereafter attempt to shed ASAP.
However, the Jewish New Year is very different. I've addressed this topic elsewhere among these pages so without revisiting my observations on an annual basis, the dichotomy of the holiday is both celebration and reverence -- to the latter concept, reverence of the fact we have a limited time on Earth and hope that we are inscribed in the book of Life for the coming year, eg we hope we survive to the next new year.
It's at once both a celebration and a somber time for reflection and of hope. I don't speak Hebrew fluently -- I can read it but I can't really translate it, save for a few words. So invariably while I participate in a conservative service, my mind tends to focus on hoping that those I love -- family, friends, etc. -- are around a year from now. I won't fire off the litany of people and things I wish for in the coming year, but all of them revolve around health and happiness and none are about me per se. It's at once selfless and selfish; but for my limited spiritual scope, I believe that I'm optimistic, realistic and genuinely thankful for all that I have in my life: family, friends, Kaia, etc.
However, at the same time, being that 9/11 has fallen in our laps almost simultaneously with the duality of the celebration of the Jewish New Year, there's an added somber tone as well as one that's more clinical and less spiritual.
The tone and the significance of 9/11 should not need any introduction or clarification; however, with respect to the more clinical aspect thereof, I refer to the proposed burning of the Quran by a Florida church on the eve of 9/11.
My first reaction to this planned event, which was announced sometime at least six weeks ago, didn't shock me inasmuch as it made me wonder how someone claiming to be pious thought this would be appropriate. Using the rationale that Muslims -- extreme, radical muslims -- deem it appropriate to burn the US flag and to attack Americans both in foreign lands and on US soil, Pastor Terry Jones felt this was a justified -- and apparently intelligent -- move.
Obviously this decision -- before the entire world pressured the Church to cancel the proposed event -- was foolish in many ways. Most Americans at one time or another have felt rage and anger over the events that transpired on and since 9/11. And while most of us have since understood the difference between those followers of Islam who are genuinely good people as opposed to those "extremists" who have perverted the religion to advocate mass murder and suicide as a means to salvation, it's understandable that some people feel about Islam the way they do.
In tandem with this issue is the "9/11 Mosque" issue, which has similarly polarized the entire nation. While the 9/11 Mosque is actually a cultural and religious center located near Ground Zero and not on the actual site, on some level it too is a bit sensitive, especially for those who lost family on 9/11 and perhaps regard the site with a different, more intense sense of longing and loss than do many of us who didn't lose anything beyond our innocence as a nation.
When I first began reading about the 9/11 Mosque I was, overall, opposed to its creation. I felt that it was beyond insensitive and repugnant building a mosque so close to the location where Islam -- in its most corrupt, perverted form -- killed 3,000 people. However, I've changed my stance on the issue -- not because I feel differently about Islam but because the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks were no more Muslim than the people who perpetrated the bombing in Oklahoma City were patriots. Would anyone object to a memorial to the Constitution at the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building?
The proposed burning of the Quran, however, would have mirrored something the perpetrators of the attack would do; in fact, given the same circumstances, they would simply killed any and every person who ascribed to the beliefs contained in that text, rather than simply burning the texts. Carrying out that burning would have marked a dark and repulsive chapter in our history. One terrible, disgusting event on 9/11 is enough.
Put another way, we already have to endure -- based on law and the insanity of some peoples' beliefs -- Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) picketing funerals. We can either come about resolutions with debate and discussion, or we can watch as Americans revile their soldiers and the people who comprise this nation. If we accede to the wishes of those who mean us harm, we can choose the latter path. Personally, however, I am thankful the Quran burning was canceled -- and not due to a proposed relocation of a Mosque or any other number of factors, but simple respect of others beliefs, despite the fact they do not coincide with those of Pastor Jones.
Is it an embarrassment that this event nearly took place? Yes. Is it of consequence that there were riots in several places, including Afghanistan and Pakistan? Yes. Is it a sad reminder that there are people filled with hate not only in those nations but here, in America, on American soil? Yes.
And in a year from now, will these problems magically disappear, especially if I hope for that result among the other new years' hopes/prayers I utter over the next week?
While none of us can predict the past, the one thing that is likely is these problems and issues never will disappear. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.
That, and I hope we all enjoy a happy, healthy, prosperous -- and safe -- new year.