Speaking of Unspeakable Things

Speaking of Unspeakable Things

“I join all who are praying for the people of Israel and Palestine during this time of unspeakable violence and tragedy.”

So far, those are the only words I’ve been able to say publicly, with full confidence and integrity, in response to the horrors that are unfolding right now in Gaza and Israel.

In the privacy of my own heart and prayers, it’s more like, “Oh my god, it’s all so f’ing awful. And I don’t understand. And there’s so much that’s wrong with the whole thing. And I don’t understand. And it’s just so awful.”

There are countless innocent civilians just living their lives, or trying to. They wonder when the next bomb will drop. Or whether they’ll have water or electricity. Or whether their loved ones have been kidnapped or killed.

I have no personal connections with anyone in Israel or Gaza. And yet I am anguished by the news and images. I can only imagine what is the experience of you for whom the experience is more directly personal — who have loved ones in the center of the physical conflict; who are yourselves Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim; who fear a predictable increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence here in North America; whose sense of safety is fundamentally threatened.

I’m grateful for the leadership of Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt, who composed thoughtful, prayerful words on Saturday — Statement from UUA President Regarding the Conflict Between Israel and Hamas — including,

I pray for the people of Israel and Palestine. I pray for leaders around the globe who must respond to this latest flare of violence and the untenable ethical considerations that abound. I pray for Muslim and Jewish UUs who experience the impact of this long strife acutely. I pray that those of us less likely to know the trauma of unending brutality and harm will not turn away from generational loss, from the devastating realities and their root causes, or from the relentless tragedy of war and occupation. Be gentle with yourselves when you need to be, but do not turn away unless you must. We are one global family living tenuously on the same human-impacted Earth. Let us center ourselves in justice as we call for peace.

Wise persons have encouraged faithful people to, “Pray at all times. And if necessary, use words.” May we — we who are anguished and yet ultimately protected from “the trauma of unending brutality and harm” — bear witness and, in action as much as words, pray for justice and peace to prevail.


P.S. Today—October 11th—is National Coming Out Day. I’ve been musing about my own evolving relationship to this occasion over the years—my understanding of queerness in myself; the other sometimes-stigmatized identities about which I’ve chosen to be “out” (survivor of pregnancy loss; long-term beneficiary of mental healthcare); the joys of parenting in a time when queerness is the default expectation in more and more social settings and groups. So, even as horrors unfold around the world, I do also celebrate the joy of being Out—and I honor your true identity whenever and however (and whether or not) you choose to show yourself to the world.

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