If Not Now, When?
By Stephen Garber
In ways small and large, I love my country. I love Florida. I love South Florida, and I love my beautiful neighborhood. My life is rich beyond wealth. I can afford to travel and enjoy experiences that are but a dream for many. I regularly express my appreciation for the abundance in my life to my family, friends and colleagues. God Bless America has deep personal and familial meaning to me. And yet …
For me, the sentiment of “What have we become?” has been lurking below the surface for some time. Like many of you, the constant beat of bad—almost inconceivable—news has become a background hum in life. When the Sandy Hook school shootings occurred, I was horrified. I was sure it would galvanize change in our society. I did not take action. Nothing changed. As each of the way-too-many unthinkable events have unfolded, I became a bit more immune to the pain. I was inoculated by the distance, the comfort of my life and home, and the ability to switch it off. Life, as they say, goes on.
And then it didn’t. For 17. For their families and friends. For all of us.
Parkland changed everything, and it was tragically close to home. Parkland is changing how we feel, think, decide and, hopefully, act about so many things. Now, driving by a public school wrenches my gut. I wonder what it’s like for the kids—and their parents. It must be completely different to drop children off at schools, when our world has changed into one of fear and violence at worst—or vigilance at best.
Our innocence may have been chipped away by 9/11. Or Columbine. Or Sandy Hook. Or at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Or …
Or not. Now, the reality is here, right in our backyards. It’s one or two degrees of separation for many of us. It’s home.
Parkland has changed the discourse for me. I talk and write about things a bit differently. I’m deeply hopeful rather than apathetic or numb. Teenagers are taking political stands in ways similar to the counterculture of my baby boomer teenage years. It’s been stunningly wonderful to see, hear and feel the youthful, powerful, erudite, thoughtful voices say, “Never again.”
They’re instigating private and public discourse that until now has lacked a large stage. Add the power of social media, and this movement somehow feels different. There have been and will be peaceful—and passionate—protests, forums for discussion and debate, and small steps to make sense of some laws and policies that simply are not working. Whatever your political beliefs, our current laws and policies are not working to keep our children safe enough.
As Hillel the Elder, one of the most important figures in Jewish history, asked, “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am not for others, what am I? If not now, when?”
I support #NeverAgain. I raise my voice. I look for the ways to be part of the change I wish to see.
At work, at home, in the community.
It’s time for me to be for myself by being for others. Now. ♦
Stephen Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.