MTemperatures in our area rose almost 60 degrees in exactly a week- we had 1F last Monday and this week we are at 60 degrees, and this does not include the wind chill we had! And of course, people were swarming outside to parks. As I took long walks and soaked in the beautiful sun, I saw that the little lake in our park– which had been frozen over the past few weeks- was beginning to melt from the center outwards. There was a fountain spouting in the middle, and there were different shades and thicknesses of ice going outward towards the shore, thickest at the edge of the lake. Birds were sitting and sunning on the inner – and more thinner- edge of the ice. The promise of spring was in the air. Listening to my Yanni playlist, I couldn’t have been happier to be alive and the spring in my step got stronger too. Even on the Jersey City waterfront, where I was walking my sweet Nyla today, the inlets from the Hudson River had water tracks in the ice, and birds were sitting on floating chunks of ice.
The water melting from the warmth of the sun provided a metaphor for me on a two-sided question heavy on my mind since the November 2016 election. One question has been – how does hate erupt so suddenly and so deeply? People could be living together peacefully bridging faiths, races, cultures, even political beliefs, and then suddenly a rather skillful manipulation releases unfathomed fury and fire on all sides. Maybe this is a question that has no answer. It continues to be repeated even in our so-called civilized world. The Netflix limited series “Black Earth Rising” for example deals with the Rwandan genocide, and is a beautifully done series on a recent example of the violence that hate can unleash – 2 million massacred. And there are many more hotspots where the situation is terrible such as Kashmir in India – today happens to be “Yom (day) of Kashmir” in Pakistan – and many, many more. I am still waiting for a Netflix series on Bosnian genocide or Palestine’s brutal occupation.
The other side of the question is how do we stand against hate? I always felt there is a futility in “standing against” something so vicious and visceral as hate. And sure enough, the melting ice provided me with a different metaphor- maybe we don’t stand against hate, but melt hearts, just like the warm sun melts ice.
As a recent example, many of us were gathered last Friday at Staten Island Mosque to bury Liaqat Mian, a beloved community member and musician, and sadly a baby boy who had only lived 1 hour. Before the prayer service – called the Janaza- the Imam introduced Mr. Frank Russo, the Port Director of the CPB (Customs and Border Patrol) at JFK Airport. He offered condolences and thanked the Staten Island Community on behalf of the 1700 JFK employees who process millions of passengers every year, and had to work throughout the government shutdown. The Staten Island community gathered funds for them and presented them to Mr. Russo. He said that he and his team could not even imagine that such generous help would come to them. He said it renewed in them an appreciation for Islamic values of prayer, fasting, charity, and reminded all his staff that they need to respectful of all people and their traditions. Now if that is not heart-melting, what is?