People say you are what you eat; I say you think about what you do. If you play Tetris for an extended period of time, you think of how the shapes fit together after you stop playing. If you shoot fifty free throws in a row, you think of the swoosh of the ball going into the hoop after you’ve left the court. If you watch a show on television, you are likely to think of the characters and the plot of a particular episode even more as time passes.
In my line of work, my NFTY “job,” I constantly relate the events in my life back to social action. Thus, while watching the latest episode of “Blue Bloods,” I was struck by the fact that the entire episode relayed how pertinent human divides remain in our daily lives—the conversations we have, the people we meet, the interactions we observe, and, as it turns out, what we watch on television.
For those of you who may not watch “Blue Bloods,” the show features a family that has many members involved in crime-fighting professions—the NYPD police commissioner, a rookie cop, an assistant district attorney, and a seasoned detective—and documents the struggles they face from day to day, usually around the dinner table all together. A recent episode, called “Black and Blue,” told a story of racial tensions within New York City, pitting the police force against the black community. The police commissioner had to play politics in order to ensure justice was being served; however, the choices he had to make certainly highlighted how difficult certain decisions are to make when addressing human divides.
There were two scenes that particularly stood out to me in how to go about addressing human divides. The first stems from a conversation the police commissioner had with the mayor (portrayed in this show as African-American) and a reverend entrenched in supporting the black community, but with personal motivation of publicity behind his efforts. During their debate, the police commissioner quoted Martin Luther King Jr., noting “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.”
To mold consensus rather than just search for it signifies how we cannot be passive in tackling human divides in our own communities. “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof” (Deuteronomy 16:20) translates to “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue.” We are not commanded to “find” justice—we pursue it. We dig deeper than the symptoms; we address all aspects of a situation; we listen to both sides; we are active molders of the world around us. I can think of no other person than MLK to remind us of that concept.
Another exchange that caught my attention was how the adults explained the situation to their children. The parents relay to the children that despite the necessity of the police entering the church, that the community was unhappy with the decision. One of the children asks, “So how do we make it better?” to which her aunt responds, “One decent person at a time.” The conversation progresses and the police commissioner notes that no matter which religious service you attend, “It all boils down to one sentence: ‘go outta here and treat everybody you meet a little better.’”
I have the same charge for you, NFTY. We can make things better by stopping hate where we see it right then and there, being that “one decent person at a time.” If you’re in the cafeteria or the hallway and someone’s being bullied—whether physically or verbally—put an end to it. Stand up for what’s right, because not doing anything is like giving up. As Thanksgiving approaches, we all have things to be thankful for. I am thankful for those that stand against injustice. My challenge to you is to be among those that I am thankful for.