What Now? January 7, 2021

I am not a professional political commentator, and I have never been elected to public office. I speak about politics from time to time as it impacts society, culture, religion and the Jewish people. This Friday evening my pre-scheduled topic is “Review of 2020, Predictions for 2021,” which was already going to touch on the 2020 US Election, its aftermath and what next for Donald Trump and his following. After January 6, 2021, in the words of poet WB Yeats, “All changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born.” In other words, we know the world is different, but in which direction? I may have more idea tomorrow, but we are all very unsure today.

Was this the final straw, when enough people finally realized that a person and a movement that demonizes immigrants and “globalists” and Black Lives Matter and the media in defiance of reality will eventually turn on anyone, anything, any institution that thwarts their beliefs and desires? Or is this the beginning of further hatred, division, disorder and violence? It has not yet been 24 hours since Capitol barriers were breached and “All changed, changed utterly,” so we simply do not know. In Jewish tradition, prophecy ended 2500 years ago, if it ever existed. And an unpredictable future can be unsettling.

Or perhaps we will remember this moment as the point where we as Americans looked at the brink and chose a different path. The clear differences of how different Capitol protesters have been treated; incendiary rhetoric that extremists take to extremes; vilification of political others as demonic enemies – perhaps our shock will help us see new truths about our society and ourselves and learn slowly, painfully, what the stakes really are and what we need to do. “All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”

As ever, the choice is up to us. We do not know what will be. All the more reason to engage in the present with firm purpose.

Here on Earth – not in high clouds-
On this mother earth that is close:
To sorrow in her sadness, exult in her meager joy
That knows, so well, how to console.

Not nebulous tomorrow but today: solid, warm, mighty,
Today materialized in the hand:
Of this single, short day to drink deep
Here in our own land.

Before night falls – come, oh come all!
A unified stubborn effort, awake
With a thousand arms. Is it impossible to roll
The stone from the mouth of the well?

Rahel Bluwstein

About Rabbi Adam Chalom

Adam Chalom is the Rabbi of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in north suburban Chicago. He is also the Dean for North America of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
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1 Response to What Now? January 7, 2021

  1. Brian Schmidt says:

    Hi Adam, Thank you for this open letter; very thoughtful and reflective. I wish you a blessed 2021, Brian

    On Thu, Jan 7, 2021 at 11:19 AM Shalom from Rabbi Chalom wrote:

    > Rabbi Adam Chalom posted: ” I am not a professional political commentator, > and I have never been elected to public office. I speak about politics from > time to time as it impacts society, culture, religion and the Jewish > people. This Friday evening my pre-scheduled topic is “Review ” >

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