The morning after the violence in Charlottesville, my American family went to the Jewish Community Center, for which my daughter swims competitively. We drank coffee and juice, ate bagels, muffins and fruit and looked back on a season in which kids from many faiths, ethnicities and races supported their friends at practice and rallied around one another at meets.
In the afternoon my family went to a reception for a dozen Iraqi teens who are in the United States as part of a youth leadership program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. They will be spending their days looking at American examples of civic engagement, community development and communicating across ethnic, religious and national divides. They will be spending their evenings with host families, including ours. Our guest Shighaf is a 16-year-old 10th grader from Baghdad. She tells us her name refers to the membrane that surrounds and protects the heart. We’re looking forward to learning more from her, and to showing her a bit of our way of life.
It’s not the way of life the brutal racists in Virginia claim to be protecting. The death and mayhem they brought to a colonial college town seems to cry out for a dramatic response. Another kind of response is expressed in the quiet ways so many of us live our lives every day.
Our nation has faced setbacks and will face more as we build the society we want and need. People were hurt and killed in Charlottesville. We can’t be complacent. But we need strength for the long road ahead, and we can find strength in recognizing the progress we have made.