Friday, June 29, 2018

Tattered Kaddish

Today I had a moment of clarity. 

I was raging internally for the thousandth time over the MAGA trolls, agonizing over what it's taking out of me not to engage with them. And something reminded me of the poem "Tattered Kaddish" by Adrienne Rich. I encountered this poem a few years ago at the Yom Kippur service at Westchester Reform Temple. It brought me to tears with its portrayal of a person reckoning with a loved one's suicide. Nowhere else have I encountered such raw emotion. I feel her embrace her pain, knowing that that is the only way to move through it and embrace the remains of love. I still get choked up every time I read it.

Today, as I thought of it again, it hit me: I decry the misguided notion that people who commit suicide are selfish. I believe in forgiveness for those who reach that apotheosis of loss, because without forgiveness we can't mourn. And what is mourning but love?

Yet here I am, raging at people led astray by Fox News, and by their pathological need to piss off liberals. If I believe in forgiving suicides enough to move on, can't I do the same for Trump supporters?

There is no point in engaging with these people. Neither you nor I will get through to anyone whose first response to reports of children in cages is to think of a reason why it's OK that the children are in cages. These are the people who would happily have put on a Nazi uniform, or happily stood by while they rounded up Jews. They are lost to us.

Yet that does not mean we must exist in a perpetual state of impotent rage. Quite the opposite, in fact. We owe it to ourselves, and to those lost to us, to reckon with our pain: to move through it enough to mourn.

We must speak our tattered Kaddish for them. We must forgive. We must love. And in our love, move forward. We've got work to do. And it doesn't include them.

Tattered Kaddish

Taurean reaper of the wild apple field
messenger from earthmire gleaning
transcripts of fog
in the nineteenth year and the eleventh month
speak your tattered Kaddish for all suicides
Praise to life though it crumbled in like a tunnel
on ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though its windows blew shut
on the breathing-room of ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though ones we knew and loved
loved it badly, too well, and not enough

Praise to life though it tightened like a knot
on the hearts of ones we thought we knew loved us

Praise to life giving room and reason
to ones we knew and loved who felt unpraisable
Praise to them, how they loved it, when they could.

-Adrienne Rich

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