An Epidemic of Blinders

Buckle up. Every now and then, I get my dander up. No, I have no idea what that means except to say that today my dander is up.

Since our last service, when there was this big question mark listed as the topic for today, we seem awash in tragedy. “Active Shooter” is now a part of our everyday vocabulary, as is “Mass Killing.” Many in the media no longer refer to assault rifles as assault rifles. They are just big guns. Yeah. That’ll solve the problem.

And you may have noticed, over the past several weeks of mass killings … take a moment, just that short phrase should boggle the mind … over the past several weeks of mass killings that an interesting vocabulary has developed. If you are a white Christian and a mass killer, you are mentally ill. If you are a person of color, but not Muslim, your spiritual path doesn’t matter. You’re a thug. If you are Muslim and a mass killer, you are, of course, a terrorist. Think about that, please. If you kill a bunch of people, whether you are a terrorist, a thug, or mentally ill depends on the color of your skin and spiritual ethnicity … at least according to our media and a whole lot of over the top, out of control and spiritually bankrupt public figures…in my humble opinion.

The most recent example would be Robert Dear, who continued the ongoing terrorism practiced against Planned Parenthood in the name of Christianity, and who declared when he was formally charged that “I am a warrior for the babies.” Textbook terrorist? But Mr. Dear has not been considered a “radicalized” Christian terrorist, but rather mentally ill – parenthetical statement, as well he should be, for his fixation on murder as a solution in no way represents Christianity. But with Sayed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the media seem fixated upon when and how they got “radicalized.” And far too many are yet again painting all of Islam with a brush they would never dream of using on another other spiritual path.

A passage from William Shakespeare came to my mind and has remained embedded there. “Oh Judgement! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.” We have, of course, evolved from Bill’s time. Now women are acknowledged to be as just as capable of losing their reason as men.

But as horrific as that is, that’s really not what I wish to talk about this morning. This morning I want to talk about blinders – an epidemic of blinders. And I won’t be talking about “them.” As you may recall, there is no them. There is only us. And I wish to talk about an epidemic of blinders among us.

Blinders, as you know, go on either side of the head. They allow the eyes to view only what’s in front. They keep out … distractions.

It’s an odd juxtaposition. We have more information available to us today, from more sources, from more perspectives than at any other time in human history. And yet … so many of us seem to know less and less about what is happening. We put on blinders, to shield us from what we choose not to see. No one puts them on us, though certainly many would encourage us for their own reasons. No, we put the blinders on ourselves, and it has become an epidemic.

Some of us, I’m sure, do it out of parochialism or prejudice. But the epidemic, I believe, comes not from that but from a kind of sensory overload. Now, in all honesty, from time to time we need blinders to be able to focus on some specific and important project. But if we’re not careful, those blinders can become far too comfortable and, before we know it we don’t even know they’re there. We have limited what we see without realizing it. And that’s just not healthy. It’s not healthy for us, or the human race.

As much as anything, I believe our blinder epidemic is a spiritual problem. Our peripheral vision, if you will, is essential in reminding us of just how interconnected we are. Blinders cut us off. But how do we stay engaged with so many differing calls upon us? It’s a reasonable question. We can’t do everything. NONE of us can do everything. So, I believe, we do the very human thing of over-compensating. We put on blinders.

What’s interesting is that we are so very good indeed at pointing out the blinders that someone else is wearing, even as the existence of our own blinders eludes us. So a first step is realizing that all of us, all of us unless we are very, very careful, are prone to blinders.

This, we say, is what I’m interested in. This is what I care about. This is what I read about. And suddenly … this is all I see. Some examples.

Black lives matter. And they do. But I believe there is danger, if that is the only lens we use.

Women’s lives matter. And they do. But I believe there is danger, if that is the only lens we use.

Muslim lives matter. And they do. But I believe there is danger, if that is the only lens we use.

Now the truth of it is that there are indeed some who will say “All lives matter” simply in a contemptuous attempt to quiet a very real and important outrage over the cancer of racism that continues to afflict this country. But the truth is, all live DO matter. All lives.

I’m not asking Black Lives Matter people to stop chanting or to stop wearing t-shirts that identify them. Indeed, that would be counter-productive. But what I would like to see are Black Lives Matter people marching in support of women’s issues. Just as I would like to see Planned Parenthood supporters, wearing t-shirts that identify them as supporting Planned Parenthood, marching in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters. And all of us marching in support of Black Lives Matter.

And these are but three issues. A few more examples … Gay lives matter. Homeless lives matter. The life of the planet matters.

But if we lock on to only one of these, which ever one we choose, and use blinders to block out the others … we lose. We all lose.

I honestly believe that we must hang together. We truly need to have each other’s backs. That’s what it comes down to. And while that does happen from time to time, it hasn’t happened yet in any great numbers.

I would argue here, gently but firmly, that humanity matters. We put on blinders and fragment ourselves at our peril. Blinders encourage a sense of me. Removing our blinders and engaging our peripheral vision helps us to remember our sense of we. Without embracing that sense of we, I don’t think we’ll make it. This was what was on my mind when I quoted Ben Franklin in our newsletter this month. “Either we all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I believe this epidemic of blinders allows those who in truth don’t believe any lives matter except their own, to keep us in manageable pockets: divided. As I tried to point out in our newsletter, divided we not only fall, but we fail.

We need to be aware of the many issues that are, quite frankly, tearing the very fabric of human society apart, and lend our voices to as many of them as we can as well as working on the particular issue about which we are passionate.

This, I believe, is where we as Interfaithers can help to lead the way forward. We here are used to removing our spiritual blinders. And we also realize that removing our blinders does not mean losing our way. Respecting and celebrating other paths does not mean losing our own. I can, as one example, be deeply involved with supporting my Muslim brothers and sisters and also march in support of Black Lives Matter even while as a Jew I am lighting my Chanukah candles. Or, if you’re my age, maybe not marching quite so much anymore, but certainly we can all help to spread the word. This, I believe, is our great call moving forward as Interfaithers. A life without blinders.

I would like to close by reading the first verse of the hymn will sing together in a few moments, for I believe it epitomizes the joy and unity to be found if we will overcome our epidemic of blinders. “No matter if you live now far or near, no matter what your weakness or your strength, there is not one alive we count outside. There is not one alive we count outside! May deeper joy for all now come at length.”

Amen.

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