When hate becomes art.

Last week, for my creative writing class, I posed a difficult challenge for my students.

I asked them to take hate, and turn it into art.

I called it “A Poetic Debate.”

I gave them the topic: Should there be a wall between the United States and Mexico?

Then – I asked them to write their argument as a poem.

It was a tall order, and there were a couple of groans.

Rather than have them choose their sides, like a nice teacher, I chose for them. I randomly chose half the class to be against, and half the class to be pro. I presented them with some research information to base their argument on and let them have at it.

As they sat down to get started, I got started as well, having taken the side of pro to make it even.

It was an incredibly difficult assignment, and I began to feel a bit guilty about giving it to them.

But they were bent over their work, and I couldn’t help smile as I looked around at them, hard at work.

The next class, we held the debate. The first girl got up to recite her poem, and I couldn’t help but feel so deeply proud of her.

Reciting your poetry is probably one of the scariest steps for a writer to take, and here they were, doing it like the experts.

Because I’m the teacher and I’m in charge, I told them that I need to share these poems with the world. About 5 of them agreed with me.

Before you read them, please remember that these are not necessarily the girl’s views. I did not ask, and they stuck to the assignment that I gave them.

These poems are beautiful, creative and thoughtful. They bring a poetic human side to a hate-filled topic.

Imagine if we all communicated through poetry? Imagine if it was forbidden to fight without turning it into something beautiful first? It takes the anger out and leaves the human in.

I am unbelievably¬†proud of these poems and the girls who wrote them, and most of all, I am so proud of them proving to themselves and to me that they can work hard at something that doesn’t necessarily come easy.

The one lesson I wanted them to learn most.

And now, after that ridiculously long introduction, here they are:

the poems

Blog post: 6/52

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Do I Love My People?

IMG_1166How do you look past differences?
How do you see past what drives you crazy about a person and see them only for their soul?
What if their soul seems so different than your soul?
How do you recognize the human in a stereotype?
How do you truly, genuinely and honestly, love your fellow Jew as yourself?
How do we unite? What does it mean to be united?
Why do we have so many differences?
On a day that is officially marked for mourning, I wonder what it means to mourn with my brethren. Mourning is so very personal, so very private, but today my nation is mourning. And I don’t know how to mourn with them.
For I don’t feel as if we are a nation.
We are spread so far across the globe, but more we are spread across a ocean of misunderstanding.
We are so many people – how can we expect to love each other?
We are the largest family in the world, yet we can’t even agree where our home is. Or who our father is. Or if we have one.
How can I expect to be united with those I have only one thing in common with?
We can’t understand each other, we mock each other, we assume that others are less than because of the way they interpreted the Torah.
I am guilty of it. So guilty. I look at others with a judging eye, I have the hardest time seeing people’s souls.
Those who use religion as an invisibility cloak, hoping it will hide their heinous acts. Those who believe all religion is a farce and that all those who practice it are naive. These people are my family, yet I can’t bear to look them in the eye.
So tell me, how do I correct what has been going wrong for so long?
How do I unite in practicality, not just in poetic words?
How do I love my fellow as much as I love myself, as much as I love my flesh-and-blood family?
For while I can see past my families faults and still love them, I can not seem to feel that same love for every Jew.
While I can look into myself and forgive myself for my deep flaws, I am unable to look at my fellow Jew and forgive them for theirs.
I want to be loving, I want to be kind, I want to be able to be blind to the differences that are blatantly in our faces.
Perhaps that is the biggest tragedy of all in my Tisha Ba’av. As I hear and know that what brought about the destruction of the temple was this inability to love, I am still unable to rectify it thousands of years later.
Today, I struggle to mourn the destruction of the temple. But I do not struggle to mourn the destruction of our nation. What started then has continued to spiral, our differences becoming more and more apparent to us, our ability to love our fellow Jew becoming more and more difficult.
Just 72 years after we lost 6 million Jews, of all sects and beliefs, we are still unable to see each other for what the nazis saw. This Tisha Ba’av, I yearn to look out into the world and see every single one of my brothers and sisters for who they are. Discarding my opinions on how they lead their lives, just who they are inside:
A Jew, plain and simple.

Because I don’t want to mourn alone anymore.