Wednesday, March 01, 2017

For Those Left Behind: The Horror of Vandalized Cemeteries

I woke up yesterday morning and proceeded in my routine as I usually do: pray; read my daily Bible verse; check blood sugar*; take morning medications, read the news.

And what I read shocked me...and frightened me;

In short: a Jewish cemetery was once again vandalized, An occurrence which, while not quite becoming terribly nonetheless not unheard-of in Trump's America.

So why the shock and fright? This one was in Philadelphia. The city in which my mother-in-law was born, raised, and educated. The city where, while both studying at Temple, my in-laws met, fell in love, and were married. And the city where, not even a decade ago, her elderly parents died and were buried.

My in-laws are Jewish, and my mother-in-law's parents were buried in their beloved hometown.

Worse, my mother-in-law recently underwent a serious surgery which required a hospitalization and from which she is still recovering, and in a good deal of pain. Should her patents' graves be vandalized, it could, in her current state, be enough of a shock to send her right back to the hospital. She is a kind and good-hearted woman, and loved her parents deeply. It would devastate her.

So I quickly looked up the obituary for my husbad's Popop, who died shortly after his wife. And sighed with relief to discover it was not the cemetery in question.

Hard upon the heels of that relief, came the sympathy. I knew that somewhere, someone else's daughter-in-law was finding out the opposite. Somebody's spouse, child, friend, was desperately trying to figure out how to break the news to loved ones. Those somebodys were devastated. They were struggling to understand why this atrocious crime was committed, who did it, and would they ever be brought to justice.

And like me, they were wondering how many more times it was going to happen in a country where its prejudiced underbelly now feels emboldened and encouraged to perpetuate such atrocities. All over the country, millions of somebodys are wondering what will be next. Where will they next strike. And above all: how bad is it going to get,

It seems every new day brings us stories of disgusting rhetoric on social media, of horrible crimes committed; people attacked, marginalized and traumatized based on their skin color, their religion, their sexual/gender identities, their disabilities, their  ethnic backgrounds and countries of origin. Sometimes, it's only their perceived minority status, with people attached because they appeared to be Muslim, they looked like an illegal Mexican, they were suspected of taking a penis into a female restroom. Increasingly, the headlines that read as if this were 1957, not 2017.

Vandalizing cemeteries has always been a cowardly and sick crime, compounded exponentially when hate is the motivation. It is an attack on people's grief, on their losses. We are none of us immune to loss and grief. We have all lost people we have loved. I've lost two in little over a year myself. It's a pain that we all share, with which we all should be able empathize. It is part of the human experience.  Which is why those who perpetuate these kinds of crimes are generally reviled by society. It's abhorrent, morally reprehensible act that dehumanizes the criminals who partake in it. Possibly they are amoral or sociopathic, and lack the ability to empathize or acknowledge that others have genuine feelings. Maybe their hate has consumed their humanity. It's not something I understand, or want to understand.

I want what I think most Americans want: to have the graves of loved ones respected and untouched, to allow those we have lived and lost to Rest In Peace, and to allow us a safe and honored place to memorialize and mourn our dead. To have others treat our grief as we would treat them and theirs.

Is that really too much to ask?

*I was diagnosed with type II diabetes last year. I will make a post on it sometime in the near future.