If a few years down the road a young person who knows and respects you were to rise from the shambles of democracy and heaped-up havoc wreaked by the Monkey King in the White House and ask what you did to stop him, would you be ashamed to answer?

I’ll let Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel say it:

There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: indifference to evil. We remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done unto other people. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself; it is more universal, more contagious, more dangerous. A silent justification, it makes possible an evil erupting as an exception becoming the rule and being in turn accepted.

“Where is the outrage?” is the question of the year. President-Elect Donald Trump benefited from a carefully orchestrated campaign by Russia to skew the election in his favor. He has rushed to appoint a entire crew of villains to his cabinet, foxes guarding henhouses, arsonists in charge of the firehouse. (As Trump met with Kanye West yesterday, someone tweeted that Kanye would be the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts; I think it’s a joke, but as Lily Tomlin once said, “No matter how cynical you are, you can’t keep up.)

When I read that Al Gore and Leonardo diCaprio visited Trump to discuss climate change, I feal uneasy about their role in normalizing the Monkey King (I mean no insult to monkeys, dear readers, but this name for a mythological figure who delighted in chaos seems to fit), though I also see the point of trying everything to stand for what’s right. What I can’t forgive them for is emerging from Trump’s lair in a fog of complicity, expressing optimism rather than sounding the alarm. Their silence enables “evil erupting as an exception becoming the rule and being in turn accepted.”

If the word “evil” disturbs you, ratchet it down a bit. Are you prizing manners over morals, going along with the normalization campaign in the interests of decorum, as if polite compliance were a superior position? Are you adjusting to absurdity? If not, my gratitude is boundless. If so, please wake up!

Today, as many as 30 Republican electors are actively considering voting against Trump. It would take 38 to turn the vote over to the House of Representatives. With no unanimity in the Republican Congress, the election result could be reversed.

I greatly admire the way Taj James and many allies are moving to defend democracy, crashing through the default indifference to evil to assert the urgency of action for good. He has laid out a compilation of ways to take action.

Pick whichever option(s) you choose but please do something:

For an earlier Human Rights Shabbat (this year’s was last Saturday), I wrote a call-and-response prayer using the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, which I entitled “Hineni” (“here I am”). Here’s an excerpt:

READER: “There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: indifference to evil. We remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done unto other people. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself; it is more universal, more contagious, more dangerous. A silent justification, it makes possible an evil erupting as an exception becoming the rule and being in turn accepted.”

TOGETHER: “The prophets’ great contribution to humanity was the discovery of the evil
of indifference. One may be decent and sinister, pious and sinful.”

READER: Who will stand against indifference?

TOGETHER: And we say: Hineni.

Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker.”


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