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Cling to a Good Heart

Rabbi Elazar says in Pirkei Avot that a person must cling to a good heart. It’s terrifying what’s happening, but we need to cling to care and love for people, especially people who are in distress, powerless, and need help. It’s tempting to cling to other stuff — being an American or a Christian or a Jew, having an education, or being smart or being “nice”, or having a family — but Rabbi Elazar is right. None of that is worth anything if we don’t cling to a good heart. We can be smart, educated, and have a beautiful family but if we don’t have that we get swept away by the rising river of evil.

How? How does that happen? Let’s take a look.

I am a smart boy and my mother loves me and my father is proud of me for being smart. I go to school where I work hard to make my parents proud and I learn to argue very well. I get a job based upon my academic accomplishments and I have a beautiful family.

I read that the US government is taking babies and putting them in concentration camps and I think “all the people who say this is wrong and horrible — they are a bit self-righteous. They think it is easy, but actually they are taking the easy way out. I will use my intelligence to show that they’re wrong.”

And behind that thought is another thought — “If those children sobbing in the desert are really an emergency — as much of an emergency as if my children were sobbing in the desert — then there is a big problem. I’m not safe. My family is not safe. So that can’t be right.”

And I write an article and share it with my friends saying that it’s not such a big deal that kids are sobbing in the desert — these things happen. And after all, the parents broke the law — what do they expect? I make it clear that there is a difference between criminals who get their kids torn away from them to scream, and good people like myself and my family, who things like that don’t happen to.

But what have I done? I now have an education that I have used to justify state terror against crying children, I have parents who sacrificed so their child can use his intelligence to make light of the pain of others, and my children have a parent who in order to protect them, said that caring about the suffering of children is an intellectual error.

What have I done?

I let go of my good heart and lost it all — kids, education, parents. All gone and turned to shit because I didn’t cling to a good heart.

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6 thoughts on “Cling to a Good Heart

  1. I have little to add because I don’t know what to do. I wish that clinging to a good heart were sufficient. You and I disagree about some things, but I have absolutely no doubt about the goodness of your heart. I’m as sickened and frustrated as you are. The question is where we go from here. I don’t know.

    • It’s not sufficient, it’s just necessary! As to what to do, join some immigrant advocacy groups — give time and/or $. They are easily googlable or I can tell you some. I posted some on my Facebook page too.

    • Here is one. https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/ You can find it if you follow one group on twitter and look at who THEY follow. Click on a couple and read their fact sheets and FAQ and see who you like. I tend to like ones that support lawyers and education because I look at a)who deals with a straight up emergency and also b)a multiplier effect. Like if you give a kid in detention money for a toy that’s great, but if you spend that money to hire a lawyer then that kid can get out, the lawyer can advocate to change the rules, the lawyer can team up with other lawyers and share info to get a bunch of kids out etc.

  2. Howard B says:

    Dear Eric:

    Your way beats stoic indifference. A big obstacle is that effective political action is complicated since the protests against the Gulf war and definitely since the sixties. People try to rationalize and live with that which they can only complain about on the internet.
    A wise man, (was it a Rabbi?) asked “what is to be done?”
    My theory is that in times of evil regimes, like the current administration, one faces a choice of whether to assist, exist and resist. The latter two are what I strive for.
    The system as it is sidelines us and the opposition is disorganized

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