As we remember the 6 million Jews murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Germany, we are presented with many important questions. What is the best way to actually remember? What can we do to make sure this never happens again? What is our obligation as fellow Jews and human beings?
In some ways all these questions and more are answered by addressing the last question. I start with an additional question that will likely cause extreme emotion in many reading this, but in my opinion it is a legitimate and fair one. The question is this: How much do we truly care? Do we care on the high-profile days when the world and our friends are watching, or do we care whenever presented with an issue or event that draws comparison or alarm? Do we do anything that goes beyond the things that make us look like we care? Do we cower in fear when presented with opposition? I am putting these questions out into thin air, not directing them at any specific people or group. Only we know the true answer in our hearts.
Do we care when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head or do we shrug it off and say, “There is nothing I can really do about the crazies out there anyway.” Do we make excuses for those who hate us or just hope others solve the problems for us? Do we trust our leaders to do the right thing? Do we support our leaders enough not to stand in their way of protecting us? Maybe most importantly, do we stand united against those who want to make hate a way of life or do we fight amongst ourselves feeding into their very plan? These important questions are only some of the questions I have for the good people out there.
For those who don’t take issue with the murder of 6 million Jews I ask you one basic question. How do you look at yourself in the mirror? How do you justify your very existence on a planet of human beings all born with the same right to live? Do you do it so-called in the name of religion? Do you have the gall to declare that God somehow justifies your viewpoint? Or are you so wrapped up in your own world that you don’t see how any other world even matters, even to the point where their existence holds no meaning?
Sadly, today, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, these questions and many more need to be asked. The world we live in today shows signs of being no better than it was 68 years ago when Hitler’s Nazi Germany was defeated. Only the names and places have changed. People still kill others just because of what they are, leaders threaten to wipe out millions, and anti-Semitism is alive and well. So today I hope that we ask ourselves all the questions that need to be asked, but maybe even more importantly ask others these questions, for although the true answers may be disturbing, hiding our heads in the sand will only increase the chances that history repeats itself.
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Many who know me will immediately understand why I felt compelled to weigh in on the Manti Te’o story, but for those who do not know me as well, it will require me to share something more personal about myself as a basis for the credibility of what I am writing.
Make no mistake. This story is not so much about Te’o as it is about the internet and internet relationships. A few years back I considered writing a book about my internet experiences but thought better of it when I realized that there were some very good, real people whose lives would be unfairly exposed. In 1996 when my marriage ended, my internet world became an important part of my personal life. The second woman I dated after my marriage was someone I met in an AOL chat room. Since that time I went on to have 3, in person meaningful relationships with women I met on the internet. Two out of the three were long distance since, as we know, the internet transcends all time and space. I have since sworn off long distance relationships but will still entertain any realistic scenarios from someone I meet on the internet, as long as I can enjoy the woman’s company without having to take a plane or an overnight bus trip. What’s important to know about these relationships, is that they are only the ones involving women I actually met in person. In 16 ½ years since my marriage ended, there have also been women I have become very close to just through online chatting. Pictures got sent, stories got told, and questions popped up. Some questions were answered, but many were not. Long gone are the days that the only thing you had to worry about was whether or not the person on the other end was truly the female she claimed to be or unmarried as she so genuinely proclaimed. We live in a world where even lies become more sophisticated. Now you have to be weary of elaborate scams designed to either take money out of your pocket or damage your image or standing in whatever community you live in.
I personally never was victim to anything very devious or harmful as a result of deceit online. I had my techniques and methods to determine that things were as I thought they were, consisting of phone calls and revelation of personal information. Everyone I ever met was at least some semblance of what they claimed to be, and in 2 cases, women I had gotten close to revealed a hidden truth when the time drew close to an in-person meeting. Even in those cases they were still nice women who were just different than they had claimed to be physically. So I can honestly say that I never got fooled as Manti Te’o did.
However, in 1996, when my marriage ended, I was a 34 year old man with some harsh life experiences behind me and not a high-profile person on the verge of making millions of dollars. Manti Te’o is experiencing this as a 21 year old, college football superstar months away from an NFL draft that can earn him more money than most people ever see in a lifetime. He was the captain of a Notre Dame Football team that played for the National Championship. Needless to say he was always a potential target. Do I think he lied about some of what happened? I would not be surprised if he has, but I don’t believe his motivation would be causing anyone harm or self-promotion. If anything it would be embarrassment. I won’t even say whether or not I was smart or lucky for never being fooled on any major level, but I know enough people who have been fooled for me to say that in some ways I know Manti Teo’s girlfriend. She’s that image put forth by people who are either so devious, so angry, or so sad that they create a fake persona for a sociopathic personal gain.
So what to do about Manti Te’o? For me the answer is simple. Leave him alone. He did not kill anyone, he did not rape anyone, and he did not run a drug ring or physically assault anyone. What did he do? He sent flowers to a funeral that never took place for a woman who never existed. At worst he is guilty of stupidity. Unless someone reading this has never been guilty of the same, my feeling is that we should just learn from this, move on, let the guy play football, and move on to stories that really matter.
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Being able to follow the progress of my blog, I have noticed this post has been getting a lot of attention. What is fascinating is that the interest in the post validates the point I am making. We are still a society that for the most part is in search of good.
It’s often been said that good can be found even at the worst of times. Although the events of yesterday are horrific beyond comprehension, I would like to use this post to speak of hope and offer a reason why we should be encouraged as a people and as a nation. On what do I base this statement? Simply put, we still care.
The shooting in Newtown, Ct. that took 26 lives, 20 of them children, caused public grief on a level I have not seen since September 11, 2001. These are two very different tragedies and I am by no means attempting to compare them, but just as it felt that everyone shared a common sadness then, it feels as though we all share a common sadness now. With incidents such as these seemingly increasing, you start to wonder whether or not as a society we will become desensitized…
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When the Bible speaks of the creation of man, the words that are used are that “man was created in the image of God”. Generally the term is understood as meaning that man was created as a being that would live to some extent in what we perceive as a Godly fashion. As someone who believes in God and believes that man was created by God, I often struggle with this concept. If man was indeed created in the image of God, something has clearly gone terribly wrong since the first man was created.
I was inspired to write this post by the recent rape and murder of the woman in India. The woman was gang raped on a bus, her body abused and injured in the most awful ways imaginable. She survived initially only to later die from her horrific injuries. The things done to her were so heinous and barbaric that you would think these actions were done to her by animals instead of people.
But the quandary is that this was done to her by people. My initial reaction was to ask, what have we become? Then I stopped and thought about man’s actions throughout history and the cruel behavior of people from so many different places towards their fellow-man and realized we’re not in the midst of a new evolution of human cruelty at all. We just have the means to find out when it happens. I mean no disrespect to all the other victims of cruelty throughout the world when I say how this one event made me reassess the “image of God” concept. I just was struck by not only the brutality of this one crime, but the joint brutality of it. Were all these men who committed the same sever acts of violence and cruelty created in God’s image? I certainly find it hard to believe that the answer to that question would be yes.
This issue goes beyond the question of man’s creation in God’s image. Instead it goes to the very question of God’s existence. The mere question will offend some while other’s will nod their heads in agreement. We’ve all seen people question God for reasons far less impactful than the plight of the woman in India and in some cases we’ve done it ourselves. Human nature tends to question God when things are wrong more than feel more secure about God when things are right. We’ve all heard the idea that some believe when things go wrong, God did it, while when things go right, they did it. So there is no question that when it comes to belief in God it always comes down to faith, because as many things that we can find to prove God exists, so too we can find reasons to question it. This is a fundamental issue that everyone needs to determine for themselves, but assuming they come to conclusion that there is a God there is still no answer to the original question of how is it God’s image what we see in this world today and in days past?
I do not believe that the word image is referring to anything physical, being that my belief system does not buy into the concept of God ever taking the physical shape of a man. I do however look at the term “image” conceptually as being like a picture. A picture is a reproduction of something that takes on the appearance of something while being unable to do anything that goes beyond the initial appearance. For example, a photograph of a loved one who has passed on can be a perfect likeness, but the person is not actually there. Only their likeness is. They can not speak to us from the picture. They can not hug us or kiss us. They can guide us, but only in regard to the feelings they cause. But regardless, we see the picture as we want it to be. It is our choice how we interpret the image. It is my personal conclusion, and the conclusion of many others, that when a man or a woman commits an act of kindness, generosity, or love, they are truly mirroring what God is in their eyes. When man creates an act of evil, he is either motivated by ignorance or indifference towards God. The ignorance is very simply a lack of knowledge of right and wrong, while the indifference happens when committing acts of evil with no concern of consequences either from man or God. Does man act as an image of God? Too often not. Is man created with the ability to? Yes. Will the human race ever reach that level and how do we even attempt that? I don’t know the answer to that. But the mere thought of the possibility may be what gives people hope in what is often a harsh and unpleasant world.
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