Jummah Reflection: You Should Feel Bad

Jummah Reflection: You Should Feel Bad

Jummah Mubarak, Shabbat Shalom, TGIF… and also, G’mar Hatima Tova to my Jewish friends, and to my Shia friends – may your observance of Ashura be filled with meaning. Every day is Ashura, every Heart is Karbala.

Today marks an overlap of observances – the Jews will begin observing Yom Kippur tonight at sunset, and Muslims (particularly Shia) begin observing Ashura at sunset tonight as well. Both of these observances are solemn, emotionally heavy and full of implications about what it means to be part of community.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of sitting still with what feels bad.

Both Yom Kippur and Ashura require adherents to embrace a level of spiritual and emotional discomfort – whether through atonement or recollection of great loss.

Most of us spend all our time trying to avoid feeling bad or uncomfortable. Our entire American society is built on this idea that we shouldn’t ever have to be unhappy/uncomfortable/in pain. We even try to suppress others’ pain or grief, insisting that it is a threat to the unity of our families, communities–and even our country.

But feeling bad–REALLY feeling it– is an important part of life and faith.

That’s not to say that we should wallow and avoid looking for solutions to fix problems that plague our peoples. But we also have to fully understand the nature of our pain; where mistakes are made and what led us to them. We can’t do that unless we are ready to sit down with the feelings that make us uncomfortable.

Perhaps this is the greatest challenge to our social justice activisms. Because to truly understand our problems in America around (for example) race, we have to be able to sit with discomfort. To witness others’ pain, and analyze our contribution to it. We have to recognize that human problems require human solutions — and those can’t be legislated or marketed away.

Football players kneeling make a lot of people mad. But I think that anger is rooted in fear. I think underneath it all, they know that there’s a reason behind these protests that goes much deeper than ‘disrespect’ for America’s symbols. I think they are afraid that if they acknowledge the right to symbolic protest, they must sit with the knowledge that the protest is happening because of someone else’s pain…and that we are all helping perpetuate that pain.

Most of the time I’m about action, but today, I’m issuing a call to INACTION. I am asking us to stop and feel shitty.

I’m asking us to acknowledge that we sin, individually and collectively; and to ponder the need for atonement, individually and collectively.

I’m asking us to recognize that our religious traditions have blood on their hands, and that we’ve used violence to silence dissent from the moment our Prophet (PBUH) left us.

I’m asking us to acknowledge that the society we live in was built on the backs of slaves, and that their decedents are still paying the price for the conscious construct of white supremacy in America.

Don’t DO anything today. Just BE wrong. Know it, acknowledge it. FEEL it.

Tomorrow, we ACT.