It’s Passover. Jews view this as deliverance from slavery. Christians tend to view Passover as a time when the Jews smeared lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their homes so the Angel of Death, who came to kill the first born of each family, would pass over the homes of the Jews. Yes, there was an Angel of Death and the first born of the Egyptians was killed. There’s more to Passover than that.
I prefer the Jewish view. Deliverance. The little guy wins. We were slaves in Egypt. Now, we are living mostly freely, but not always, in just about every country on the planet. What enslaves us now? Bigotry, along with a lot of other things but I’m going to be typing about bigotry. What’s that you say? Some of your best friends are: white, black, Muslim, Christian, whoever else is not just like you. That’s nice but bigotry is more insidious, more hidden. Bigotry creeps around inside of us and presents itself in ways that are acceptable to ourselves.
Twice, I’ve been forced to look beyond the surface where my prejudices lie and see the human.
The first time was in court when I represented a soldier and argued my guts out to keep the judge from imposing more than the minimum mandatory jail sentence. Back at my office, I realized what I had done. While I wanted to tell my client to get a real job and stop sucking up my tax money, I saw the young man under the uniform. I saw him as a person. I saw the pain I’m pretty sure he carried inside of him. I still think blowing up Iraq and Afghanistan are two of the stupidest, waste of money things the US has done. Now, I see beyond the uniform. I see broken women and men who come back from combat with horrible memories, feelings that didn’t get felt while trying to survive, nightmares, and inability to function. I see them feeling ashamed when they have nothing of which to be ashamed. I see that shame keeping them from getting the help they desperately need.
The second time was last night when I attended a seder held by my temple. I was seated next to a border patrol agent. I think the border patrol checkpoints are useless, a waste of money, and that the agents engage in racial profiling. All those things are true. But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy. I’m rethinking my penchant for referring to border patrol agents as Nazi bastards. This one is tough. I’ve never hated anything as much as I hate border patrol agents. But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy. I refuse to make eye contact when I’m in a checkpoint. I raise a finger as I drive off. But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy. I’ve never been pulled over in a checkpoint because I’m Caucasian and clearly of Western European heritage. Half the time, I’m not even asked my citizenship. Chicanos have told me about how they are routinely pulled over in checkpoints. Twice, I’ve gotten snarly border patrol agents to instantly back down by identifying myself as an attorney.
But the man sitting next to me was an ordinary guy.
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