Last Friday I went to a memorial and Sabbath service at my local temple, a small place that serves around 250 families, with not many being active members. To get to the sanctuary, I had to walk past a watchful police officer, all vested and armed as he eyeballed everyone who entered.
This was not the first time we’ve had police in our temple. They are commonly seen during High Holidays and other major temple events simply because those times are when the danger to Jews are at their highest. I’m used to it then. One might even say we’ve become desensitized to the officer’s presence and what it means for our safety as a group. However this is the first time I’ve seen someone during a Friday night service. On this night, we had more people, Christians and Jews, due to the memorial service, but still it broke my heart to know we needed protection.
Here’s the kicker…
In all the times I’ve attended many Christian services in different denominations throughout Texas, I never once saw a guard at the door. Not once.
Now to be clear, I have nothing against the police officers. They are sweet fellows and I always try to bring them a plate of the after-service (Oneg) teats. Others do too. I recognize they are performing a much needed task. I dislike the fact that we need them at all. As we collectively mourned the murders of the 11 victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, it hurt to see the man there this time, guarding me from the outside anger and hatred.
Why can’t we live in peace and without fear? Because our president has stirred up a hornet’s nest of racism by failing to condemn the white supremacists and also encouraging the idea of a “white-only, white-rule” throughout his political base.
The President’s reaction
We look to our leaders in times of crisis and this is what we got. In response to the shooting in Pennsylvania, President Trump said, ““If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation.”
More guns in houses of worship? A place that should be filled with peace and lovingkindness? The stupidity of this statement puts the president’s concern in the same thoughtless attitude of “let them eat cake” by the old empress of France before the impoverished masses rose up against her. President Trump may have visited the families in Pittsburgh, but he is clueless and uncaring about them. His comments displays off-the-cuff, insensitive thinking rather than solemn concern about his people’s welfare. The eleven victims deserve better than a cheap soundbite.
Again, I’ve never seen a white-oriented church with security at the door. They are not under attack. Why must we pay for security and turn our temples to fortresses? Don’t Jews, Muslims, Blacks, and other minority institutions deserve the same kind of peace and security as white institutions? What happened to the whole “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” idea in the Declaration of Independence? Somehow in today’s society, that concept seems to only apply the right color and religions. Our federal leaders do nothing to defuse the growing hatred against all the “different people.”
The Cost Factor
I also want to point out that hiring security is not cheap. I don’t know the exact sum but let’s say it is $100 for a three to four hour event, 2 hours to gather and worship, 2 hours for fellowship and cleanup. If we need it every Friday and Sunday for Sunday School, that adds up to over $10,400 a year, not counting special events an holiday meetings. Mr. President, my synagogue operates on a shoe-string budget, as I imagine most churches/mosques/synagogues do. The “gun inside” idea becomes prohibitively expensive as well as morally degrading.
So dear friends in houses of worship across the country, I propose that if you feel you need the security to keep the racists, haters, and killers out, send your security bill to the president. If this is his best solution instead of denouncing white supremacists and racist groups, let him foot the huge freaking bill. We may be a part of some minority group, but we are all still Americans. We deserve protection, and our thoughtless president can damn well pay for it.
Seriously, folks, send the White House the bill. Address it to the president himself. Let him put his money where his mouth is. We Americans deserve better than a president that thinks guns are always the answer.