When initially asked to write a blog post on sanctuary for Kadima, I thought "nope." It is not that I do not think sanctuary is a great theme for a progressive shul to embrace, especially a shul as peace loving, accepting and embracing as Kadima is and continues to be. It is not that I do not think that we all deserve to seek, foster and embrace sanctuary, as this year has been the pits of despair for any of us who care about human rights, the environment or just the concept of life in general. For me the struggle is the word itself, sanctuary. I just...don't really know what it means.
Sanctuary implies some kind of normal baseline we need to return to that I am not sure I personally have ever really experienced, let alone know how to write about. Not as a trans person, not as an immigrant, not as an Ashkenazi Jew. I feel like sanctuary is a word invented by pioneers in the old west, gently brewing mulled cider for church the next day, pretending there are not corpses of indigenous people littered outside, and anticipating the immediate perceived blessing of G-d for their holy manifested bloody and soon to forgotten destiny. A sense of belonging not only inherited from the privileged but also violently upheld and then universally un-talked about. It feels falsely optimistic. Perhaps that is a little harsh, but then again it also accurately illustrates my writers block on the topic. However if there has been false sense of sanctuary nationally embraced in America, or even in wealthy pockets of the coastal cities, or in information silos of the liberal/conservative binary, I think we can all agree that the lie of sanctuary is now being blown up, torn up, burned and jettisoned out of our consciousness lately. Everything is suddenly very visibly and identifiably unsafe. Democracy has turned to something more like autocracy, our president might have dementia, a personality disorder, a sexual abuse compulsion or a combination of the three and our collective normal has calibrated to his limited and chaotic reality... oy vey.
I personally have never experienced a time like this politically, I feel genuinely afraid of what I read daily. Where attacks of the free press, on the government, on civil rights, on the environment are so frequent there is not time to mount a counter attack before the next one comes down the pike. The near constant barrage of violence, power, and abuse truly reveals a reality those of us who are privileged have been able to ignore for a long time, that despite the story of order and justice we have been taught, human's dark addiction to oppressive behaviors, wealth and power might actually lead to a collapse of society as we know it. Scarier still, (or joyous still if the collapse of our cruel society is something you have been waiting for,) we don't know when, how or to what impact. How horrifying. How terrifying.
How incredibly true feeling. I cannot speak for anyone else, but in the few moments I am not having panic attacks, an unnatural calm washes over me. It is an emotion really, an old emotion or mind state passed down to me from my ancestors. An emotion that can only be described as "yup."
So what do we do? Well, like most of us here at Kadima, I have taken to fighting back. The never ending meetings. The initiatives. The predominantly white circles of young people with asymmetrical haircuts where interrupting is not allowed and no one remembers to bring food. The petitions, the protests, the opinion pieces, the self riotousness. I have been doing all of that, and for all of us who have been out there pushing hard beyond what we thought possible, you have to continue. We need you, even if the lack of snack food at your meetings is starting to to seem suspicious to me. (That is right, I just implied you are cheap.)
I realized today though that there is something else we can do. Something Jews have been doing forever. Something my family taught me to do to prevent the infection of false American Optimism at a young age. A gift bestowed on us by our anxious ancestors who put up with all this sort of insanity and then some to let us be alive and here today. We can laugh.
I mean all of us mining our pain collectively for absurdity laughter. I mean reaching that point of complete emotional break down and finding a hypocrisy to giggle about instead laughter. I mean sinking deep into the pain and finding the moment of joy in the illumination of insanity laughter. I mean crying about what we have lost and laughing about what is remaining at the same time laughter. I mean laughing as a means of surviving this mess. Our laughter is resistance. Our laughter is our birthright. Most importantly, our laughter protects us from going insane too.
So dig deep friends. Get a chevre of jokesters. Go fart on a family member, or a Trump supporter. Watch a Mel Brooks movie. Start making fun of each other kindly, maybe enjoy it instead of taking it personally. Look at someone you love and slap your forehead, chuckle and exclaim “ I did not think after Bush it could get worse!” Chuckle even louder when someone inevitably responds “ What are you saying?!?! OF COURSE IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE, what’s the matter with you? Kina hora.”
Start small, go big. And as they reach for our souls with their scary vacuum of bottomless greed, destruction and fury give em a wink. Maybe the finger. Smile. They can take our country. They can take our health. They can even take our lives. But no one can take our dignity unless we let them.