A number of seemingly unconnected events keep taking me back to the same horrible thing that happened on Monday, January 28. On that day a local Jewish doctor who seemed to be loved by everyone was gunned down in a treatment room of his own office.
Dr. Ronald Gilbert – a prominent urologist, a husband and father, a pillar of his Chabad of Huntington Beach community, a mensch – seemed to be loved by everyone. His rabbi, his friends, his acquaintances, his patients and his colleagues have weighed in on what a warm, giving, nice person he was. His loss, at the age of 53, will be felt by many, and it seems so senseless.
I did not know Dr. Gilbert, but the sheer horror of this tragic death has tugged at me for days. There have been so many senseless murders lately. They seem so random and so unconnected. Why is the world so angry? What can we do to change it?
If we change our gun laws, will angry people still find a way to own guns? If we change our mental health capabilities, will we reach people who have too many problems to admit that they have problems? If we have armed guards and package checks at every door of every school, doctor’s office and other public place, will somebody determined to kill be able to do it anyway? Why does there seem to be so much anger, so much hate, and what can we do about it?
Two other events that happened this week may provide some answers or at least the framework for asking some of the right questions. At the UCI Jewish Studies advisory board meeting there were discussions about making all students, not just Jewish ones, aware of the program, and of the fact that Yad Vashem has become a place where all people can learn why the Holocaust must never happen again, rather than a place that simply portrays Jews as victims.
The opening of the “Courage to Remember” Holocaust exhibit in Santa Ana emphasized the latter theme. Speaker after speaker reiterated that it is everybody’s job to make sure that the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust must never happen again, that everyone must heed the warnings of hatred, that everyone must speak up and act to make the world safe for all of humanity.
What triggers hatred? It can be the result of a lack of self-worth, a lack of dignity, a lack of empowerment or a lack of ability to connect with anyone in a constructive way. It can be exacerbated by a bad economy, a run of bad luck and an overall feeling of isolation and despair. If it goes on long enough, it can result in cruelty or – as has been the case too many times – the death of innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or who became targets of someone’s hatred for reasons nobody but the perpetrator can understand.
While we cannot bring back anyone lost to such hatred, we can try reaching out a little harder to the loner among us, standing up to evil, refusing to tolerate hate crimes in any form and educating our children about the past to keep history from repeating itself.
As the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”