Us and Them, by Barbara Gish Scult

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Us and Them

Shylock said it all,[1]”[To Salarino:] He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.” (Act 3 Scene 1 Page 3, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare)
And it has reverberated down the centuries.

Shylock said what he said as a Jew
But could have easily said it as an African-American, Muslim, gay person
Fill in the missing blanks.

A riff on Shylock’s message:
 
We all yearn to be happy and loved,
We all struggle to make peace with disappointment,
We all stumble and lose our way,
We all grieve the loss of loved ones,
We are all eventually betrayed….sooner or later…
in big or small ways

In short, we are all simple more human than otherwise
Yet a primitive, irrational type of thinking persists:
Us and them

Us we treat with reverence
Them we burn
Or humiliate and oppress.

But when the chips are down,
When you’re on the firing line,
When you’re sharing a foxhole with another person,
All you want to know is:
Are you brave?
Are you reliable?
Will you watch my back?

You don’t give a hoot if they are white, black or green
…..if they wear a kippah or a keffiyeh…….

They say there are no atheists in foxholes.
True. Also no bigots.

And someday, a day we have struggled for, for so long,
A day for which so many have been martyred,
A day which is too late for millions, but perhaps not too late for us.
On that day there will be only “us”….no “us” and “them.”
On that day we will join hands with our extended family
and face our common destiny together.

“Us and Them,” by Barbara Gish Scult was shared by Mel Scult via the Open Siddur Project discussion list on Facebook.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. ”[To Salarino:] He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.” (Act 3 Scene 1 Page 3, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare)

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