Friday, March 27, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Not to fear at all

By
September 23, 2010 |

Special to The Enterprise

ÒKol ha-olam kulo gesher tzar mÕod: vÕha-ikkar lo lÕfahed klal. The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to fear at all.Ó

Ñ Rabbi Nachman of Bratslov

In a time when Americans are being urged to fear the Other: immigrants and their Òanchor babies,Ó socialist presidents (we should be so lucky) and terrorists at the gate, the words of the Hassidic Rabbi Nachman offer a welcome balm to our hearts.

I quoted this song at a remarkable multifaith gathering, convened at the Methodist Church, to counter the rising anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S. Held on 9/11, the gathering included people of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths joining together to express solidarity, mutual respect and a common quest for peace.

While Rabbi NachmanÕs words come from 200 years ago, they speak to our condition today, as the world is beset by multiple political, economic and ecological crises that make any false step potentially fatal. In these times, the tally of problems is long and ever-growing, effective solutions are few and seem inadequate to the task. A lack of hope constricts our vision of the world into a very narrow bridge.

Further narrowing our vision is fear. When we are frightened, we pull back from those we view as different, viewing them as threats instead of friends and allies and seeking safety in sameness. Fear narrows our hearts.

It is fear of the Other (Muslims, immigrants, gays, people of color, etc.) coupled with fear that oneÕs own sustenance is being threatened (by the down economy, by Òbig governmentÓ) that has stirred this populist storm.

At the extreme, fear can transform our perception of the Other into the Enemy: not only to be feared but, in the worst cases, to be exterminated. This is the root of all fundamentalisms: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., as well as nationalisms of all stripes.

Stephen ColbertÕs satirical ÒMarch to Keep Fear AliveÓ is a perfect antidote to Glenn BeckÕs recent ÒRestoring HonorÓ event, and lays bare the fear-mongering of Beck and his Tea Party faithful. Colbert rightly identifies fear as the base of power for the Tea Party, as for many reactionary movements before it.

The words of a contemporary rabbi, Harold Kushner, offer a way forward for those who are themselves frightened by this hateful and destructive potential of our species. ÒCourage is not the absence of fear; it is the overcoming of fear.Ó

How do we overcome fear? Not by closing our eyes to it: this just freezes us on the high narrow bridge. Not by running away from it: this only leads us closer to the abyss.

Instead, we open our eyes, open our hearts, and open our hands to those around us and walk with courage, with hope, and with love. And, as we walk forward together, fear falls away.

This was the experience in the sanctuary of the Methodist Church, as leaders from the many faith traditions in Davis prayed, sang, spoke and reflected together on what makes a community.

This is the spirit of the Celebration of Abraham, a multi-faith community gathering held in Davis during January each year, that was launched in the aftermath of 9/11 to build solidarity between Christians, Muslims and Jews, even as the political winds in the county and world were blowing us apart.

While it has experienced its own ups and downs, this is also the intention of the city of Davis Human Relations Commission, the only city body dedicated to protecting civil rights and the dignity of all people in the community.

It is unfortunate, that in pursuit of ÒstreamliningÓ city government, the City Council is considering merging the Human Relations Commission with the Social Service Commission. This would represent a loss to both commissions and to the community as a whole, as both perform important and distinct functions. The HRC should be maintained as a means to keep the City Council and city departments accountable to the DavisÕ diverse populations and to ensure that all of our residents can live their lives without fear.

As a cautionary tale, consider the class-action lawsuit by more than 1,000 African-American residents of low-income housing in Antioch that has been recently been certified for trial against the city and its police department for discrimination. Davis residents might be interested to know that the Antioch police chief is James Hyde, formerly chief of the Davis Police Department until he resigned after escalating conflicts with the Human Relations Commission over allegations of racial profiling by police.

At the time, the Davis City Council responded to this conflict by ousting the HRC chairperson and ÒreorganizingÓ the committee. This time, City Council members might want to think hard about whether theyÕd prefer to keep the HRC or risk having to Òtell it to the judgeÓ in the face of another civil rights conflict.

Davis needs more places Ñ like the interfaith gathering, like the Celebration of Abraham, like the Human Relations Commission Ñ where we can build community, understanding and mutual respect, where we can overcome fear by walking the narrow path, together.

Ñ Jonathan London, Ph.D., is a Davis resident and parent. He shares this monthly column with Jann Murray-Garc’a. He may be reached at [email protected]

Comments

comments

Jonathan London

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Anti-gay initiative puts AG in a bind

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    County supervisors consider options for historic courthouse

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Two found dead of apparent shooting in West Davis home

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    New Paso Fino design trims lots

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Co-pilot may have hidden illness, German prosecutors say

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Senate’s Harry Reid announces he won’t seek re-election

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Woodland police warn of kidnapping phone scam

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Lawyer disputes police’s hoax claim in California kidnapping

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

     
    Sign up for Camp Shakespeare

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Empower Yolo offers peer counselor training

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    State loosens sex offender residency restrictions

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Neighbors invited to adopt Willow Creek Park

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Sing along on April Fool’s Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Three nabbed in counterfeiting probe

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Forum

    Can he get life back on track?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Blame Reid for impasse

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

     
    Practice cancer prevention each day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Turnabout is fair play

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

     
    Be aware and be afraid

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7

    .

    Sports

    UCD’s Hawkins, Harris to shoot at Final Four

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Home sweet home: Aggie women win a tennis match

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Devil boys grind out a net win at Franklin

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    DHS baseballers fall to Vintage in eight innings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD men edge Hawaii on the court

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Sacramento get its second straight win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    DYSA roundup: Recent youth softball games feature big hitting

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Sharks get a key win over Detroit

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    UCD Student Fashion Association presents charity fashion show

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    ‘Get Hard’ comes across as rather limp

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Monticello announces April live-music shows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Leonardo Tuchman’s work shows at UC Davis Craft Center Gallery

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    Sacramento Youth Symphony holding open auditions

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    Preview Art Studio Tour participants’ work at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Smokey Brights to perform at Sophia’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    ‘Deserted Destinations’ is April exhibit at Gallery 625

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Camry Hybrid takes a step forward

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Celebrate Rusty Jordan’s Life

    By Creator | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, March 27, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B4