Thursday, December 22, 2011

D is for Hanukkah (aka dedication)

Since it is still the holiday season, I thought I would continue my journey through the alphabet a little playfully. This week is the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah. You can link here to my other Hanukkah post about self-determination. Now the word Hanukkah actually means dedication in English, so I am going to use it as my letter D.

The reason the holiday is given the name of dedication is two-fold. One is the fact that the Holy Temple, once it had been liberated from Seleucid control by the Maccabees, was rededicated to the glory of Holy God. The other point of dedication is the fight that the Jews fought against the Assyrian-Greeks to maintain their Jewish traditions. It would have been easier, if the Maccabees and their followers just gave in and went along with their rulers, incorporating Hellenistic ways into their lives and their children's upbringing. But nope, the Hasmoneans, wouldn't have any of that. True to who they were, the stubborn and stiff-necked Maccabees, dedicated themselves to the future and fought to make it the future of their choice.

However, something interesting has been happening lately and that is a rewriting, or retelling of the tale of the Maccabees by historians to make their fight seem not so grand. They talk about how in reality the fight was less a fight against the Assyrian-Greeks and more an internecine fight among the Jews of Judea. Something akin to a civil war. There were the more religious Jews, the Maccabees, who fought the more assimilated Jews, the Hellenists, who asked Antiochus Epiphanes to come to their aide in the fight. (Go here for an interesting look at the history) So apparently, the Jews have always had that tendency to argue amongst themselves. Only in this case, it led to a civil war. But what came about from this war, was a direction, a dedication to how the future should be lived. (Sadly the same type of civil war raged in the year 66-73 against the Romans, led by the Zealots. This led to the destruction of Jerusalem and eventually in 135 the beginning of the 2000 years of diaspora for most of the Jewish people.)

I suppose its the same with any civil war. The American civil war, was no different. There were groups of people who came to cross purposes and visions about how this nation should function.  The Civil War decided the future trajectory of the United States. It defined the concept of liberty for all and began the definition of how we see humanity as a whole today.

As the Jewish Civil War of the Maccabees, which began the idea of self-determination for a people, the American Civil War commenced the idea inherent in the modern era of human rights. For up until the moment that the 13th amendment was passed, there had never been a codification of the fact that all persons, no matter the color of skin or creed could be considered human enough to be free. With the acknowledgement of the humanness of all persons the march towards today's vision of equality of personhood is inherent in our  American way of life.

No, it has not been a straight line from the Maccabees to the American Civil War and to today. There were eons of terror and torture and man's gross inhumanity to man. (Including  decades of mankind's ignorance here in the Untied States as well.) And yes, in today's world, so much and so many live without the acknowledgement of their humanity and deny the humanity of others, especially the denial of the humanness towards those with disabilities. But what we have found throughout human history is that there is always a small dedicated group of people who are willing to risk all to bring about a better tomorrow and a better future for themselves and their posterity.

No they don't always succeed. In fact history is replete with periods where these dedicated few are destroyed, marginalized and murdered. But somehow there is that indelible human spirit which tries once again to stand up and say....It is my life and I will live it as I see fit. Noone has the right to take from anyone their right to their own future. It is what we dedicate our work and our existence for when it comes to our children.

This song has great meaning in our household. Bon Jovi sang it at the Concert for New York right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. People cannot perpetrate such horror and believe in the humanity of all mankind. Read here, here and here, about some recent events involving terror and evil.

We do not just dedicate our time and effort into therapy, doctors and education for our children simply to make them stand out less in the world or to teach them how to navigate a typical world with a nontypical brain. We dedicate our energies to our children so that they will not be marginalized, destroyed or even murdered by a world that does not understand them. We dedicate ourselves to a future whereby our children will be seen not as autistic human beings, but as first and foremost human beings. Our children are entitled to that. (Read HERE.)

So as those who came before, throughout history, whether the Maccabees, the American colonists who stood against the might of the British empire,  those that fought at Gettysburg, wore the purple sashes of the suffragettes, fought against Nazism-fascism-communism, marched for civil rights and still fight the good fight against those who are unable to see the human in their neighbor,  I dedicate myself to the premise that all human beings are all entitled to a future. All human beings are entitled to life's choices. All human beings are entitled to feel loved, wanted and welcomed. All human beings are entitled to live in a society that understands them and celebrates their gifts while helping them with their deficits. All human beings are entitled to their humanity.

I suppose that is my next step in life. Now its time to dedicate teaching the rest of the world and to getting the rest of the world to acknowledge the humanity of those with disabilities. We who dedicate ourselves to this, recognize that we are in the forefront of a nascent movement. But what a movement it is and what wonderful soldiers and fellow travelers we bring with us, our children.

Until next time,