Monday, December 7, 2015

Fear and Shame Expunged Amid the Candlelight

The Friday New York Times ran a picture and promotional message about the lighting of the “world’s largest menorah” on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.  I thought about going with Gilda and eight-month-old granddaughter Cecilia to the Hanukkah celebration. Why not? We were scheduled to babysit and Cecilia lives close by, perhaps a half mile from the ceremony site. So why not go?

Then I thought about San Bernadino and I was ashamed. Ashamed to think I was ready to concede my freedom to terrorists. Ashamed that I was ready to alter my way of life because crazy people perpetrate obscene, crazy, lethal acts. Ashamed because I was ready to forget that life’s end can be random even without terrorists. Walking across West 43rd street in Manhattan Saturday night I was almost struck by a car. Should I not cross streets any more? Should I let my fears, my caution, overwhelm and negate my right to assemble peacefully to worship? Or attend a concert or sports event? Or just go out to eat or shop? How different was I from those who responded to a Times request for readers to convey how their lives have changed since terror entered our daily psyche:

Cecilia saved me from having to make a decision. Her bedtime presented a conflict neatly timed to keep me indoors in a neighborhood where unlike sections of Brooklyn just miles away stray bullets piercing windows and killing innocents are not the norm.

Still I was ashamed.

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the few over the many, the victory of a separate culture over the homogenization sought by a dominant power. If there were any time to show the invincibility of that ideal, a time to visibly show the terrorists that we cannot be cowed into retreat into our safe caves, Sunday night at Grand Army Plaza would have been it.

In the end, Cecilia expunged my shame. Her afternoon nap lasted longer than normal. When she awoke we bundled her into her stroller, met up with Ellie and Donny in Prospect Heights and walked back to their Park Slope home past Grand Army Plaza with the celebration in full swing, if you can call an address from the Brooklyn borough president part of a celebration. We didn’t linger, but we were part of the hundreds gathered to commemorate freedom.