Thursday, July 31, 2014
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 jklondon40@gmail.com

Comments

comments

Jonathan London

  • Recent Posts

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

  • .

    News

     
    Local therapists bring ‘Daring Greatly’ movement to Davis

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

     
    Davis area youths learn wilderness survival skills

    By Charlotte Orr | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Crews battle grass fire near Davis

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Sorting out the claims after pipe break: Who pays?

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Governor says immigration solution is a priority

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Firefighters keep Yosemite blaze far from sequoias

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Police nab three for vehicle theft

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    As farmland subsides, aquifer worries mount

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Pogledich named Yolo County counsel

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Tuleyome launches Kickstarter campaign to publish a children’s nature book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Davis teen on California team for national horticulture competition

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Truth and authenticity on radio program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Senior sing-along held monthly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    A rose by any other name

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Civilians are innocent victims

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Thanks for your kindnesses

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Questions, questions, questions

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Ross Douthat: Democrat, Republican patterns are changing

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    River Cats snap three-game losing streak

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Davis Water Polo U10 girls are golden

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1

    Aggie Silva mixed school and strikes; wins Reno tourney

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lucky No. 7: Giants snap losing streak

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Davis Rugby teams wrap up summer season

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    DHS tryout schedule updated; physical packets due

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    49ers WR Brandon Lloyd enjoying return to NFL

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Hammel struggles in A’s loss to Astros

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    Happy 103rd birthday!

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A2

     
    Fay Libet: 100 years young

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Future subscriber: Sonya Theresa Arnold

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Arts

    Hot City heats up Winters gazebo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Enjoy some Mischief at First Saturday event

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    British organist to play in Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Native American dancers to perform in Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Winters stages ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Landscape exhibition returns to Davis

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Hear live music at Monticello

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    New KDRT show features touring musicians

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, July 31, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6