History mocks itself, and that's a good thing. It means that problems are in the rear view mirror.
This week we celebrated Independence Day. Fireworks exploded in the sky to oohs and ahhs across America. Meanwhile, my son Isaiah is in Israel. He and his friends took refuge in a bomb shelter the other night, bracing for incoming missiles. That's when I suddenly realized what our fireworks are about. The colorful explosions that we've come to adore? They are simulations of the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, as famously observed one night by a terrified poet named Francis Scott Key. Key's jubilance at surviving that battle, and upon the cessation of fire in 1812, became our national anthem. Sure, he'd be aghast if he knew that we celebrate that evening's carnage with ever-growing whimsy. But, you know what? If he was cool, he'd laugh a little too. We're free to make fun of the past because, two hundred years later, we live in safety still.
Plus, it's not really the bombs that we toast. It is the cessation of war. It is freedom and safety.
I pray that someday, Jews and Palestinians can enjoy such freedom and safety and that they too can mock conflict and hoist a glass to the absurd. If they do so with fireworks, it will be especially ironic because maybe in 1812, wars were won with bombs but in today's Middle East, bombs will never be the means to an end of conflict. Peace requires putting the weapons down and for all parties to deploy empathy, reason, compassion, respect, dialogue, justice, understanding and leadership.
My eldest is in Jerusalem tonight. Meanwhile, one of my other child's best friends is in East Jerusalem. He is a Palestinian.
I look forward to both of our boys returning home to Brooklyn, and to a day when friends and brothers, Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians can toast each other's freedom. They should celebrate as inappropriately as they'd like to, mocking history from a distance, the problems of today happily, safely, in the rear view mirror.
|Isaiah's youth group at the Western Wall, in Jerusalam|