Another gun tragedy: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
by Bob Schwartz
An honest estimation of the moral state of our society will disclose: Some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
There are so many ways for people to distance themselves from being implicated in human-caused tragedy. For just one example, our American gun genocide.
Some will say they hold the more enlightened views, that they have spoken out, that they have acted out, that they have contributed to the cause, that they have voted for the proper candidates, that they have done all that they could.
Some others will say that there is a greater good, a greater ideology, not to mention the Second Amendment, so any responsibility is neutralized by their superior constitutional position (and their “thoughts and prayers”).
Heschel’s celebrated quote came out of the civil rights era and the still ongoing attempts to ameliorate racism. The point is that we can claim higher ground, criticizing those who obviously take no responsibility, and bemoan that we can do little more, given legal and political realities. But even with the limitations, and even with others shrugging off their glaringly obvious responsibility, they and we share the burden. Whatever the issue, whatever the tragedy.
The prophets’ great contribution to humanity was the discovery of the evil of indifference. One may be decent and sinister, pious and sinful.
The prophet is a person who suffers the harm done to others. Wherever a crime is committed, it is as if the prophet were the victim and the prey. The prophet’s angry words cry…
There are of course many among us whose record in dealing with African Americans and other minority groups is unspotted. However, an honest estimation of the moral state of our society will disclose: Some are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the public climate of opinion, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption.
From The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence by Abraham Joshua Heschel