Nov 27, 2023·edited Dec 1, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik, FAIR

Beautiful piece, Laurie. Thank you for writing it.

Principles aren't really principles in fair weather. In fact, principles only reveal themselves when they are difficult—even seemingly impossible—to adhere to.

These principles of compassion, of common humanity, and of individual dignity are most important in times like these—when it seems that every incentive, every emotion, and every argument is compelling us to dehumanize, to vilify, to flatten one another into symbols and abstractions.

When everyone around you has lost their minds, that’s when it’s most important to keep yours. When everyone around you has hardened their hearts, that’s when it’s most important to open yours.

As we have seen with Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Daryl Davis, and countless others: When we counter inhumanity with humanity, when we respond to hatred and anger with compassion and grace, when we insist on nuance in the face of oversimplification, we are truly living the principles of fairness, understanding, and humanity that we espouse.

Doing this doesn't just open a window for change in others where there was once a brick wall. It also prevents us from becoming that brick wall ourselves.

Looking forward to reading and hearing more from you, Laurie. Thanks again for the excellent piece.

Expand full comment

I like the feel good premise of this piece. But what the author misses is the fact that evil exists in the world. Some among us are simply evil, that cannot be explained or rationalized away unfortunately.

Expand full comment

Laurie, I have tremendous admiration for FAIRs principles of tolerance and mutual respect, but just as you say that "symbolism has its limits," I would argue that there are also limits to tolerance; there are red lines. I have a daughter living in Jerusalem with four little children; her husband is in the reserves on the northern border. You cannot imagine how the trauma of Hamas's brutality has hit parents in that country. My daughter knows that she was spared what happened in the south only by an accident of geography. She looks at the photograph of one kidnapped little girl whom she could easily have mistaken for her own four-year-old daughter. Those who march in the streets of Canada and the U.S. and Europe supporting Hamas -- for them, I have no tolerance. I think they are either wilfully blind or have no conscience at all. No moral bearings. I would not dehumanize them (although I would dehumanize Hamas), or demonize them, but I see them as products of a society that hasn't taught them the most basic moral laws. I don't know if you know the case of Andrew Pessin, professor at U Conn who was driven from teaching by an ignorant student mob for having the temerity to liken Hamas, several years ago, to something like wild dogs (I can't remember the exact terminology he used, but it has been borne out by events). Pessin wrote an essay recently, which he began with this paragraph:

" 1. Yes or No

It’s a simple yes or no question. Much follows from how one answers the question, but we’ll start with just the question.

(Q) 'Is it acceptable to slit babies’ throats, rape little girls, chop off the hands and feet of teenagers, gouge out eyes, murder children in front of their parents, murder parents in front of their children then kidnap the children, bind entire families together then burn them alive, and livestream all the above including posting videos of their murders to the victims’ own social media accounts—and worse—on a mass scale—in the pursuit of some political aim?' " What he discovered, on campus, is that only 4 of his colleagues -- he approached approximately 200 -- were willing to answer "No" to that question. I would suggest that there is something wrong on campus when that is the case. And I would suggest that those who march in favour of Hamas are morally obtuse, the product of an education that offers no history and no historical background within which the conflict in the Middle East can be understood. I could go on, but do any of those young people objecting to Israeli retaliation for this brutal massacre know about the toll in civilian deaths (probably between 25,000 and 30,000) of the Normandy Invasion? Do they realize that when the Americans, Brits and Canadians invaded Normandy, approximately that number of innocent French civilians died? Did that make the Normandy Invasion, which saved the world from Nazism, immoral? Do they know how to think? I suppose I can pity their ignorance, but I find the educational system that produced that ignorance repugnant. And I can't extend tolerance or understanding to those who cannot answer "no" to Andrew Pessin's question. What Hamas did was immoral. Period.

Expand full comment
Nov 30, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

I fear that many readers have totally misunderstood the point of Laurie's piece. In no way is she attempting to excuse the behavior of such monsters as Hitler or Hamas. On the contrary, she is emphasizing the importance of holding such individuals fully responsible as human beings for their abhorrent acts and not letting them off the hook as mere symbols of Nazism or Palestinian liberation or anything else.

Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King were exceptional human beings whose achievements should be celebrated, not only as symbolic examples of what black men might accomplish but more importantly for what they did as individuals. Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin or Hamas should be thoroughly condemned, not simply as symbols of the horrors of Fascism or Communism or Islamic Terrorism but rather as human examples of the horrors that evil men, responsible for their own individual actions, can perpetrate.

Expand full comment
Nov 27, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

Thank you for this. Especially your description of having students empathize with each of the characters and imagine how they felt and thought instead of just treating them as symbols.

Expand full comment

Rationalizing hate is not only infantile- it is detrimental to Humanity.

Trying to explain this concept ad nauseum, these days, causes one to question which direction we are going here in America.

In trying to explain the Holocaust to children, are we going to start distributing coloring books to kindergartners which portray the Nazis as misunderstood people?

Is that how Dylan Roof, or Timothy McVeigh should be cast?

Featuring an article which so simplistically tries to explain away good and evil by admixing the two and coming out with some funky Kool-Aid, is just downright dangerous and it totally demeans the VICTIMS of that evil intent.

Expand full comment
Nov 28, 2023·edited Nov 28, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

I read that wonderful article and it made me think:

I am sure most everyone is aware of the real shipwreck story that paralleled Lord of the Files. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/13/the-real-lord-of-the-flies-mano-totau-survivor-story-shipwreck-tonga-boys-ata-island-peter-warner

Things turned out much better for those 6 real teens than they did in that novel. Perhaps the lesson is that humans are generally far worse in our imaginations than they are in reality...

That said, there _are_ monsters out there and they cannot be ignored - we must vanquish them for civilization to survive but we must take care lest we become monsters. That is where terrorists have an advantage over civilized people - they do not have to worry about _turning into_ monsters ...

Expand full comment

I’m sure the people who pull down the hostage posters have their reasons and feel justified, but I’m just not a big enough person to go deeper than my belief, that these people hate Jews and consider that jewish lives are less than, and feel bad and angry accordingly

Expand full comment

You tear down a hostage poster, you are a symbol of hate. I have no sympathy for you. You should be outed. You should lose your place if you are going into a profession. You did a public act of defilement.

Expand full comment
Dec 3, 2023·edited Dec 3, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

Beautiful Piece Laurie. Just as society has embraced group affinity over the individual, seeing people as symbols erases their humanity. Thank you for this piece and for teaching young people to be critical and open-minded thinkers when examining the abstract. Unfortunately, hard as we may try in real life, seeing the humanity in all is simply not possible - ie. Hamas and their supporters!

Expand full comment
Nov 28, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

This pretty much describes my world view. I will judge individuals based on their individual self. I don't like assigning anything to a group or being asked to put myself in a box and I don't think others should allow themselves to be put there, either.

Expand full comment
Nov 27, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

You might be interested in the developmental worldview I write about in my newsletter Glimpsing Integral. Not only do people have different perspectives, they can grow into more complex and mature levels of understanding each other.

Expand full comment
Nov 27, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

Thank you for this article.

Expand full comment
Nov 27, 2023Liked by Laurie Miller Hornik

your iPhone cracking and you thinking that means something is superstition along the lines of what you mentioned with religion.

but that's not really a valid use of symbolism

today people have a very paltry understanding of symbolism. You see it in the entertainment choices people make - cheap thrills and nauseatingly obvious plot twists.

symbolism plays a large part in understanding people's reasonings for things.

if you understand the symbolism behind the belief you can deconstruct what's actually behind such beliefs.

for example symbolism played a large part in people's excuses for why they would vote for someone like Donald Trump.

because he symbolized anti-establishment.

of course they didn't catch all of the tangents into the fact that he's a crook and that far outweighs any symbolism.

Expand full comment

I care. It’s exhausting. I’m shocked by all the situations the news does not report on at all. It does have me wondering why the news only reports (or why the UN only speaks up) when Israel is involved. Madness.

Expand full comment

My fellow humans...

Hamas has committed atrocities - and filmed them. It would strain credulity to suppose their deeds were unintentional (If they were then they'd have tried to destroy all evidence rather than posting it on social media - even the Nazis did not advertise the Holocaust to the world!). I feel confident that no matter "What the Hamas' side is" these documented acts of terrorism reveal them as monsters.

I am referring to Hamas and not all Palestinians. BTW: the IDF draws the same distinction as I do. The Palestinians who live under Hamas' rule are not their target, Hamas is - Israel cares what the world thinks of them...

It truly irks me that so many in this country cannot draw that same distinction - especially in Higher Ed! Currently, at many American colleges and Universities the protesters and demonstrators would have you think that Israel launched an unprovoked attack on Gaza! The fact that the protests predated the Israeli response speaks volumes to me. Not a week after the sneak attack, a faculty member at my college sent an email to all faculty to form a forum to calmly and even-handedly discuss this situation. The subject line was "Palestinian Rights." Ah. Even-handedness, right! Ask those who live under Hamas' rule about Palestinian rights. Also, I find it ironic that many College students who celebrate Hamas' cruelty would suffer the same due to their sexual orientation, transgender status, non-conformity to gender roles, etc, etc.

We must highlight the difference between our side and the other side. Do we support those who video their atrocities and show them to the world with apparent pride, or do we support those who take pains not to kill the innocent and even created a humanitarian corridor for non-combatants to leave the war zone? Sure, Israelis make mistakes and have killed innocent Palestinians but it is a false comparison between them and Hamas: intentions matter.

Expand full comment