Monday, September 15, 2014

The Way to Prophetstown

I am fascinated by the highway sign, rather non-descript, green with white letters, as familiar in appearance as all those other markers of place and distance that we see along the way of our automotive journeys. This one is for Illinois Route 73, Exit 33. One of our synagogue members knew I would be fascinated by it so she stopped and photographed it as she drove cross-country this summer. It is the announced destination, coming up in just half a mile, that intrigues me, a place called “Prophetstown.”

Would that such a place was so close, I thought, just a slight turn off the highway. As I looked at the photograph, I wondered from where and why such a name came to be. I mused about who it was that might have been the prophet for whom the town was named. Or were all the founders and early citizens of the town of such noble quality, touched by something in the air, perhaps; moved so deeply by human experience, by a sense of God’s love within themselves, that the name refers to all of them? Whether one or many came to be regarded by others as a prophet, it gives beautiful challenge to a sobering rabbinic maxim: lo navi b’iro/one is not a prophet in their own town! If the name refers to all who lived there at the time of the town’s founding and naming, then it affirms the gracious hope of Moses, Would that the entire people of God were prophets (Numb. 11:29). 

The photograph of the road sign pointing the way to Prophetstown came to me this week, the week of the Torah portion Shoftim (Deut. 16:18-21-9). Parashat Shoftim concerns civil administration and the pursuit of justice, that both should go together. In this portion is the exhortation, tzedek, tzedek tirdof/justice, justice shall you pursue. The ways of government and the pursuit of justice are meant to be as one strand for the sake of the commonweal. Too often at odds, the two become so easily frayed, the thread of social justice as a dropped stitch upon the floor. So enters the prophet, to remind of what is meant to be, ready to speak truth to power. In this portion that speaks to matters of social and civil administration, therefore, God tells the people, I will raise up for them a prophet. The way of the prophet is given, not as one who will tell the future, not in the way of the soothsayers and diviners we have just been told to shun, but as one who will remind the people of God’s path, the way to Prophetstown.

As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches, the prophet is one who feels God’s pain for human suffering. God’s pain is the pain of human beings, pain that is felt in the bodies and souls of God’s children. As a parent feels the pain of their children, so God feels our pain, and the prophet cries out with God’s anguish. In his own prophetic voice, Rabbi Heschel speaks of the prophet as one who is “thrown into orations about widows and orphans, about the corruption of judges and affairs of the market place. Instead of showing us a way through the elegant mansions of the mind, the prophets take us to the slums…. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet’s words…” (The Prophets, pp. 3-5).

With Rabbi Heschel’s teaching, it becomes clear why the nature and role of the prophet is presented in Parashat Shoftim, the portion of Judges, judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself in all your gates. The prophet is needed to speak truth to power, to challenge those very judges and officers when they forget God’s call for justice and fairness and no longer see the needs of the people, becoming deaf to their cry. The prophet is needed to remind society and its leaders of when we have lost the way and to call us back. As in a town where all are prophets, justice depends on all of us. The way to Prophetstown is in the end not on a map or in big letters upon a road sign, but in the way that we feel and respond to God’s pain for human suffering as our own. The way to Prophetstown becomes clear, tzedek, tzedek tirdof/justice, justice shall you pursue

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nonviolence as a Way of Life

“Be kind because everyone you meet is carrying a great burden.”  Philo

Aligning one’s thoughts, words and actions with an ethic of non-harming is a life long process. 

It is motivated by the desire to alleviate pain and suffering, one’s own and others, and an ongoing awareness of the countless ways we participate, both individually and collectively, in causing harm. 

The web of relationships in which each of us finds ourselves is the place this harm occurs, ranging from a simple act of unkind speech, to often deeply ingrained biased and prejudicial attitudes, to complex lifestyle choices (though, for many, there may be few, if any, choices) related to food, clothing, shelter, education, health, leisure, employment, governance, transportation, money/investments, etc.

Awareness of the harm we cause directly and indirectly can be heartbreaking and overwhelming and discouraging and numbing. It can lead to resignation, paralysis, and cynicism, and is often resisted. 

Yet, it is precisely this awareness that lights up the many places where we can make choices that lead to less and less harm, while at the same time planting the seeds for and/or strengthening less harmful habits. 

Here are a few examples.  Acknowledging feelings of anger and speaking kindly and firmly is possible, and requires practice. Feeling afraid and making a sincere effort to understand and get to know those who are different is possible, and requires practice. Choosing to get from home to work on a bicycle or by bus instead of driving one’s own vehicle is possible. Shifting one’s investments away from corporations that exploit their employees and the environment and avoid paying their share of taxes, to one’s that do not, is possible. 

Entering into this process more and more completely requires courage, commitment, patience and, especially, a light and wise touch so that efforts to bring about justice and peace don’t themselves cause harm in the short term and sew the seeds of injustice and violence for the future, e.g., waging war to bring about peace.

Support from others who are also committed to the path of a less violent way of  living and being can be very helpful.  Check out the livingnonviolence links for other groups and organizations that might be useful in your experiment.

Chris Klug
Guest Blogger

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Notion of Civilian

It’s time to let go of the view that some work for the military and others do not. In this heavily militarized society, we are all military. There are no civilians.
Understandably, most of us are not eager to part with this distinction. Those who regard themselves as military embrace the military-civilian divide because it serves the narrative of distinction: those in the military are set apart from civilians for greater work and greater risk. The military-civilian divide also builds camaraderie among warriors: the rank system, the restricted areas, the secrecy, the protocols, all serve to create a culture apart.
Those who regard themselves as civilian embrace the divide because it provides comfortable distance from the uneasy work of militarism. Coercion and harm are the defining responsibilities of this system, and most folks find such business unpalatable. (Of course, the military takes on other work from time to time, such as construction projects, refugee assistance, and disaster relief. But the essential work of the military is to exercise coercion and harm to serve our interests. Take away the construction projects, and the military continues. Take away disaster relief, and the military continues. But take away the business of coercion and harm, and there is no military.) The military-civilian divide provides civilians with a buffer to separate one’s conscience from one’s support for distasteful activity.
Even within the military, there is a civilian-like divide. Very few military personnel ultimately engage in the specific actions of coercing or harming others. Most personnel can claim to be behind the scenes, providing administrative, technical, or logistical support. In other words, most military personnel can effectively feel like civilians when they want to. If they are ambivalent about the business of coercion and harm, they can find relief in simply being an office worker, a medic, a researcher, a mechanic, and the like.
While the notion of civilian provides many of us with solace, it is an illusion. We might not be on the military payroll, and we might not wield arms or threats on the front lines of conflict, but we are all vital players in maintaining the military ecosystem. The front line warriors are able to function only because the rest of us do our part.
Taxpayers offer the ultimate support, agreeing to provide all the necessary resources to ensure that we can wield effective force when it serves our interests. Legislators direct this wealth into the vast economy of military contractors, subcontractors, and ancillary businesses. Civic leaders readily equate patriotism with militarism. And citizens offer unflagging devotion to the entire enterprise, reliably electing legislators to maintain and expand this system. Even in our daily lives, we see clergy linking the obligations of faith to support for the military, we see educators promoting military life as a way to fulfill civic duty, we see academics devoting their intellect to developing weapon systems, entertainers rallying support for the latest military operation, toymakers selling combat as play, and so on.
In short, civilian is indistinguishable from military. Civilians are essential and full-fledged participants in the business of militarism. If civilians failed to do their part, militarism would unravel quickly: resources would dry up, morale would drop, logistics would falter, and missions would cease.

The notion of civilian is a notion of separateness. If we have any desire to move toward a demilitarized society, we will need to abandon this notion. In other words, we will need to acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that we all directly and substantially support militarism by the choices we make in our daily lives. As we pay more attention to the extent of this connectedness, more options become apparent for how to demilitarize. The business of coercion and harm will not subside until we reduce our cooperation. In the meantime, we are all military.

Clark Hanjian
Guest Blogger

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not a Far Away Place

As they prepared to leave the table around which we had gathered in the synagogue, they presented me with a beaded bag from Jerusalem, a bag filled with gifts. I was embarrassed to receive yet another gift from them. I told them that their presence was itself the greatest gift. I told them that my wife and I had been in Israel this summer in the midst of so much pain and sorrow, and that everywhere I went I asked people where they find hope. In the presence of these young people I found an answer to my own seeking, to the same question that in moments of enough courage I ask myself.

Planning to return for our service that evening, they were a group of ten Israeli high school students, five Jews and five Muslim Arabs. The Jewish students are from the south, all attending a regional school in Kibbutz Yotvata in the Arava region of the Negev desert. I lived on that kibbutz for a time many years ago. The Muslim students are all from a small village in the north near Natzeret/Nazareth. They are travelling together as part of a program called Friends Forever. It is an American based effort to bring young people together from places of conflict, people who could just as easily become enemies rather than friends. Having met each other a few times in Israel as part of the coordinating effort, they now travel and live together abroad, sharing in discovery of each other and themselves as they encounter new places, people, and experiences. Their guides are two teachers, one from each of their schools, and an American coordinator for the program. The goal and the hope of the program is that the friendships fostered will continue at home, and that these new friends will help to prepare new cohorts to engage in becoming friends forever. 

We went around the table, sharing names and a little background. The interplay of names and backgrounds was like music, enveloping all of us with a sense of wholeness, only names, the essence of who we are and where we have come from, names telling of each one’s presence. I had to hold back tears several times. I did not share with them the sudden thought I had that the last time I heard an interspersing of Hebrew and Arabic names was at a peace vigil at which were read the names of all the dead from the Gaza war, Palestinian and Israeli, Hebrew and Arabic. To call each other by name is the beginning of friendship, a way of connection, and so may it be for these young people, and through them for all of us, the beginning of a new way. I asked them why they had chosen to be part of Friends Forever. Their answers showed that a new way was already unfolding through them. Knowing strife so close at hand, their answers were more than untried idealism, but reflected a yearning that is born of urgency and of a struggle not to despair. Several of them spoke of loving peace, of wanting to help bring peace to the world. In their being together, transcending their own fear and discomfort, of which they spoke honestly, they are taking the first steps toward making peace a reality in their own world of strife and separation.

When it came time to leave, we walked outside together. Suddenly, one of the Muslim students asked if they could see the Torah. “Ah, of course,” I said, and all turned around and walked back in. We gathered around the reading table and opened the scroll to where it was set from last week. There, jumping out at us, were the words of the Sh’ma, an affirmation of God’s oneness, Hear, O Israel, God our God, God is one (Deut. 6:4). I shared an essential teaching with them, one they already knew in their hearts: if God is one and all people are created in the image of God, then…, and I asked them, and they answered…, then all people are one. And so it was around the table. And then I rolled the scroll to that week’s Torah portion, Parashat Ekev (Deut. 7:12-11:25). I chanted the first few verses for them. Smiling, and making me smile, one of the Muslim students said it sounded like the chanting of Quran. And I asked them, “what does Ekev mean?” One of the Jewish students said right away, though all of them speak Hebrew, “it means because of.” And so it does, and I asked, “and what does akev mean,” and a teacher answered, “it means heal.” I added one more word formed of the same root, ikvot/footsteps. And I explained that this portion is about them. Most often when we speak of following in someone’s footsteps it is younger people or people coming later who follow in the footsteps of those who came before. But it is for us to follow in their footsteps, to pursue the way of friendship and peace in the way that they are modeling and living the ideal now.

There is a beautiful teaching of Rabbi Yitzchok Meir of Rothenberg (1799-1866), the Ri”m, that the first words of the portion, v’haya ekev tish’m’un/it shall come to pass as a result of your hearing…, perhaps on the heals of your hearing, are telling us to listen for the footsteps of the Messiah, ikvot m’shicha. Those are the footsteps that I could hear as we stood around the open Torah, Jews and Muslims together. In the bag of gifts they had given me was a small book of teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) entitled, Ein Makom Rachok/Not a Far Away Place. Following in the steps of such young people, may that time of peace and wholeness, of swords turned to plowshares, be a little closer, not a far away place.

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Here We Go Again

It always starts that way, with a few advisers, some bombing, and some promises that there won't be any serious "boots on the ground." So, here we go again in Iraq. The U.S. advisers are there. The bombing is underway. Next?

That's not to say that the latest manifestation of terrorism with ISIS isn't horrific. Anyone engaged in Holy War isn't bound by the same strictures as when it's just a normal war. Holy Warriors have God on their side and God, as we've seen over the ages, can be an extraordinary villain of nationalistic leaders and moralistic followers, those who are able to turn a faith inside out and upside down.

Especially in the U.S., we need to be careful about only laying responsibility for holy war on followers of Islam. When we look at the historical record, all of the monotheistic traditions have had (and are still having) their holy wars. One could hardly bear to watch the recent destruction in Gaza of the military overreaction on the part of Israel, seeming to carry an intensity and passion only understandable in a religious context. After all say many, it's all land God gave the Jewish people in ancient times. 

It's also understandable that after such a horrific event as the holocaust, the Jewish people might say "never again." Still, who is to say the survivors in Gaza won't say "never again," and in the next engagement will have God on their side?

Nor can we ignore one of the reported reasons President Bush decided to invade Iraq. According to Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne, he was approached by the office of French President Jacques Chirac to help Chirac understand a reference Bush made to "Gog and Magog."

The words came up in 2003 while Bush was lobbying Chirac to become part of the "coalition of the willing" in support of an Iraq invasion. Bush told Chirac a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the middle east and how they had to be defeated. 

If you don't know your books of Genesis, Ezekiel and Revelation in the Christian Bible, that's where the names Gog and Magog appear. They are the forces of apocalypse that are coming out of the north and will destroy Israel unless they are stopped. Bush believed the situation in the middle east was a cosmic struggle, prophesied in Scripture.

Bush told Chirac, "This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins." The same year he spoke with Chirac, he reportedly told the Palestinian foreign minister he was on a "mission from God," in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chirac has since confirmed Romer's report in a book published in France by Jean Claude Maurice, although he reportedly told the author if he repeated the story in his book, he would deny it.

If the story is accurate and I have no reason to doubt it, especially as George W. is a Christian millennialist, many thousands have lost their lives in a holy war, and Iraq continues to be the scene of enormous suffering, destruction and just plain terror.

For those Christians who affirm the concept of God in the first letter of John, "God is love," the so called "mission" of President Bush in Iraq was not only mistaken but absolutely contrary to the faith. And for those Christians who understand Old Testament prophecy and apocalyptic literature as referring to the times in which it was written, not some predicted future, the beliefs of President Bush in such a position of power and authority, is not only terrifying but utter madness.

Two sensible things have been communicated about the situation we are in now. President Obama said, we are doing better in Afghanistan because leadership there is in dialogue across the political divides. That never happened in Iraq with the Maliki government. Rather they alienated other groups even more than earlier.

The problem is, the President said this in almost the same breath as committing us to new strikes in Iraq.

The only other sensible response so far came from Pope Francis. He asked Islamic leadership to come forward and disown the kind of Islam represented by ISIS. We need this to happen! But if it doesn't, we might also understand that at least in the U.S., Muslims have hunkered down, with good reason. There are some holy warriors at work in U.S. society who can't distinguish between civilians and terrorists. One disturbing bumper sticker I saw on I-29 read, "Kill Them All: Let Allah Sort Them Out."

That kind of thinking needs to be condemned by all people of faith. Fear and religious prejudice create silence and bitterness, not dialogue. The same goes for coercion, manipulation, force and war. Peace is the fruit of justice and truth seeking. 

"Will they ever learn?"

Carl Kline

Monday, August 18, 2014

Circles of Connection

Like concentric circles flowing out in Jamaica Pond, formed of stones cast from different places on the shore, becoming as one, so the confluence of yearning flowing out from the far-flung shores of humanity, becoming as one. In a time of so many sorrows, Mieke went for an early morning walk around the pond last Shabbos. On her return, she told me in disbelief of the sign she had seen on a bench by the boathouse. It said in quotes, “Noah’s Office,” and then told of a memorial gathering that morning at nine o’clock for Noah Katz. We were both shocked, how could it be? As I later wrote in sharing thoughts with my congregation, for those of you who were touched by Noah’s ebullient spirit around the pond, taken in by his garrulous warmth and love of people, I apologize if this is your first hearing of his death. He had died suddenly in his sleep a few days before. Upon the bench where he so often sat, his “office,” there were folded running shirts that told of marathons he had run, and there were flowers, and upon the ground beneath the bench his running shoes with their bright orange laces boldly announcing Noah’s arrival at the finish line. 

I made my way over to the pond just before shul, raindrops forming so many circles on the water. Word had spread quickly, a crowd gathering in the bandstand in disbelief, a huddled circle of people comforting and seeking comfort from each other. Noah’s sister and brother-in-law were there, all the rest were his family from around the pond. One woman, an English teacher, spoke of how she and Noah would talk about words, “what word should we talk about today,” Noah would ask her each morning he saw her. One of his favorite words was “serene,” she said, as he looked out onto the pond and noted its serenity. Another spoke of her son whose name was also Noah, and how big Noah would always ask how “little Noah” is doing. A man familiar around the pond for the parrot perched upon his shoulder, a bright colored bird named Shakespeare, shared that Noah had recently wanted to talk about death, leaving us to wonder if it had been a premonition, a sense of coming change. “No, no, said the man, let’s not talk about that.” Instead, Noah confided that he had always been afraid of Shakespeare the parrot and asked if he could hold him. “Put up your hand and Shakespeare will decide,” said the man. Transcending fear, reaching beyond limitation, as though beyond the wall that runners fear to hit, Noah held the parrot on his hand, smiling upon that which he feared no longer.

I spoke in the circle of having gotten to know Noah over the last year and a half or so. I shared the embarrassment and shame I feel for having avoided him for some time before that. Here and there we would speak briefly or trade pleasantries. I was often wary of the amount of time it could take to engage with Noah. With deep sadness, I realize what I missed and take to heart the lesson to be learned. One of the first times I met Noah, running for a short distance together, he asked me if I had any events coming. Perplexed, I thought about coming Bar and Bas Mitzvahs, weddings, the kind of events in my life. Seeing my confusion, he said, “races, do you have any races planned?” In having earlier avoided too much engagement with Noah, I think it was in part that I wanted to avoid being the rabbi, wanting just to be a pond runner or walker. Noah was intrigued, though, that I was a rabbi and I began to share more openly with him. We talked of having elderly fathers. We spoke of a mutual friend, someone who was to him as family for so many years, a woman whom my dad hired for her first job. Noah bubbled with laughter, almost uncontainable in his joy for living and his delight in human connection.

In the prayerful circle of that gathering by the pond, I shared thoughts on the Jewish meaning of Noah’s names, thoughts I would love to have shared with him. Telling of his soul’s roots, Noah’s names speak of who he was and continues to be. His Hebrew name, “Noach,” means rest, as in serenity, the way of which he spoke and sought. He could be at rest upon his bench, even as he is at rest now, his soul yet soaring to greet others, as upon the wings of another Noah’s dove. His last name, “Katz,” is an abbreviation for Kohen Tzedek/righteous priest. It is through the kohanim that blessing was conveyed upon the people. They were as conduits of blessing, through whom people were joined with each other as well as with God. In the sacred space of Jamaica Pond, Noach was a source of blessing, joining people with each other and helping each one he encountered to feel a sense of their own importance and belonging. One of the last times I saw Noah, he was sitting on his bench talking with a newcomer to Boston, offering advice and information, and most of all conveying the goodness of Bostonians, at least of one, whose ways we should aspire to follow. “Where do you think Noah is?” one of his close friends asked me when we encountered each other the next day. She and I had seen each other many times around the pond, but we had never spoken. “He is right here,” I said. “In our stopping to talk his soul is continuing to do its work. Soul work is never done.”

The next Shabbat was Shabbos Nachamu/the Sabbath of Comfort. Following the sorrows remembered on Tisha B’Av, day of mourning and fasting for so much tragedy in Jewish history and in the world, we begin a cycle of time called the Seven Weeks of Comfort. The name of this Shabbos as the Sabbath of Comfort comes from words chanted from the prophet Isaiah, Nachamu, nachmu ami/Comfort, comfort my people (Isaiah 40:1). It is an imperative given to each of us, each of us called to be a comforter, each of us in need of comfort. So it was in the bandstand by the pond on that Shabbos, a huddled mass of people comforting and being comforted by each other. So it is in the world right now, people all along the shores of humanity so in need of comfort, of hope. Hearts breaking for the violence in the Middle East, Israel and Gaza so unbearable; from where shall comfort come, from where signs of hope? Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, the old ways of strife that lead to misery, none to comfort and show a new way. Only stones gently cast, as in the way of symbolically casting our sins into the water on Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Near, shall bring circles of life to intermingle with each other.

On that Sabbath of Comfort, we read from the Torah portion called Va’etchanan (Deut. 3:23-7:11), a prayerful word meaning in its root to beseech, to plead, to supplicate, an expression of so much desire and yearning. Wherever the word appears, it is understood to be an expression of a gift freely given/matnat chinam. That was the way of kindness as a gift freely given to all by Noah Katz. Of caring for each other simply because we are each human, each one carrying a story worth hearing, a precious connection waiting to happen, so shall the circles of life, circles of connection, intertwine and be unbroken, comfort upon the waters. May his memory be a blessing.

Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

5 Ways to Adopt Nonviolence as a Way of Life

My hometown, New Orleans, is known worldwide for its gun violence. We have one of the highest homicide rates in America, and we have evolved countless approaches to changing that culture of killing. The culture stays alive due to years of failures, on the part of all the relevant stakeholders-- every level of government has failed to focus on the problem, seeing it as insoluble.

Established business interests have fled the city, meaning crime is the only employment available for many of our young men. We as individuals have failed to cross economic and racial divides and band together as New Orleanians to resist the violence that affects all of us in some way, every day we spend here.

Here are five of the many guiding principles we must follow toward a nonviolent existence.

1. Never forget that violence breeds more violence. The proper response to fear does not include forming a group of armed vigilantes, as some wanted to do after a mass shooting on Bourbon Street. That will only lead to more retaliatory killings, which already recur in familial and gang-based feuds that drag on year after year.

Even the pattern of other violent accidental deaths and suicides follows the geographic distribution of homicides, a grim shadow moving in the wake of the deliberate killings.

2. We must rely on our own community to develop a path away from the killing. Strategies imported from other regions do not work in New Orleans, as we discovered when we tried a conflict intervention plan called CeaseFire, which originated in Chicago. The effort upset the existing balance in the trial area, multiplying homicides by a factor of 2.6 in its first year, then started pushing homicides just outside its boundaries into the surrounding district, which is now #3 in terms of murders.

3. We must unite to conquer the problem and forgo blame. Casting nonviolence in terms of "we, the nonviolent, against them, the violent criminals," does not result in a solution. We will continue to fail until we all learn to speak, and think, in terms of "we" and "our problem."

The New Orleans Police Department uses statistics to downplay the rate of violence, while refusing to engage with the community on a meaningful level. NOPD relies on carefully controlled public meetings and crime walks rather than true community policing, which requires a 24-hour personal presence to help those who live in high-crime areas.

Officers don't want their own families to live in the communities where they themselves patrol, saying it's too dangerous for their spouses and children. What about the families who must live there? The assumption of innate superiority and desire for separation maintain a climate of mutual suspicion and hostility between police and residents, while New Orleanians continue to die.

4. We have to solve our violence problem at the family level. We see some of the same surnames in lists of murderers and murder victims every year, and yet we fail to reach out to those troubled families. The most violent years for our teenaged boys, many still affected by the horrors they experienced during Hurricane Katrina, are 17-26.

We have to reach all our children with the message of nonviolence well before that time, which for some families means changing the habits of a lifetime. The more children we bring up surrounded by violence and death as a way of life, the longer the culture of killing will thrive.

5. We have to create a new positive system to replace the culture of violence. It is not enough to tear down what we now have without simultaneously devising a new mode of survival, one in which we all share equally in opportunities for education and economic advancement. Until we restructure our local system to give everyone productive alternatives to lives of crime, we'll all keep suffering.

Even legislative and judicial remedies designed to improve the problem, like federal civil rights cases and hate crime prosecutions, are exacerbating existing divides in the community, some racial and some between supporters of gun ownership and those of us who realize the availability of firearms is a major part of the problem.

Author Byline:
This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for HYPERLINK She welcomes your comments at her email id: HYPERLINK ""