White nationalists murdered my people. Now, I’m praying with my feet.
By Sara Blazevic
On Sunday morning, I woke up in a well of grief. Grief for the eleven Jews slaughtered in Pittsburgh while praying together in their sacred place, on our day of rest, by a white nationalist who screamed: “All Jews must die.” Grief for the two black people murdered in Louisville the day before that, by a different white nationalist who told the white man standing beside them, “Whites don’t shoot whites.” Grief for our country, where countless people live in fear of violence and hatred tearing apart their lives.
I thought of my Jewish great-grandparents, who carried their Jewish traditions with them to America, through the trauma of pogroms, of migration, and of poverty. I thought of my Croatian grandparents, who joined the Yugoslav Partisans as teenagers to fight fascism and continued to do so their whole lives. I thought of the grief that so many generations of Americans have experienced, and the courage they’ve shown, as they’ve fought to make this country live up to its founding promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — for all.
We know who’s responsible for the 13 souls extinguished in the past several days, for the millions more seared by this trauma, and for those who lose their homes, lives, and livelihoods needlessly, every day, to racism and violence and greed. It’s the same corrupt billionaires who were responsible when an unnatural superstorm, Hurricane Maria, left millions without power and led to thousands of death in Puerto Rico. It’s the same people responsible when wildfires ravage the western United States, growing exponentially larger every year, and it’s the poorest and most marginalized people in this country who are hurt the worst.
White nationalism and anti-Semitism existed long before the Trump administration came to power. But make no mistake — Trump, the GOP, and the wealthy elites who’ve put them in power, have blood on their hands. Their recklessness and greed have empowered Nazis, given cover to climate deniers, and endangered our shared home and our shared futures.
I am still figuring out how to grieve a tragedy that didn’t happen to me but was nonetheless an attack on me, the people I love, and the values I was raised with. I feel the suffering and injustice of the world in my gut. And — I know who’s responsible. That’s why today, while the funerals for those lost in Pittsburgh and Louisville are beginning, while my friends and my extended Jewish community are sitting shiva in cities all over the country to protest white nationalism, I am praying with my feet. I’m getting on a bus to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to help elect Jess King, whose opponent is an NRA- and fossil fuel-funded incumbent running on his ties to Trump. While Jess has run on a vision of a society that works for all of us, not just special interests or the wealthy few, her opponent, Lloyd Smucker, has run on a platform of hateful and divisive lies. And we’re gonna kick him out.
As it says in the Talmud, the Jewish book of laws: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” Four days ago, the enormity of the world’s grief came into full relief. Six days from now, we have a chance to take the work of transforming our world one great step forward and bring America closer to working for all of us.
For any of you feeling grief and despair — I feel you. I wish I could tell you to hibernate and take care of yourself these next few days, to retreat from the pain of the world, but I can’t. The truth is, these upcoming elections will be life or death for many more Americans caught in the crosshairs of this administration. So I want to invite you, too, to seek relief through action; to find sanctuary in solidarity. We can change the political tide in this country and stop Trump’s attacks, but a just outcome is not inevitable — it depends on all of us giving it our all. Join us, and together we can repair the crumbled foundations of our democracy, and let the light shine through.
Sara Blazevic has been organizing since she was 15, where she was first introduced to environmental justice work in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. She was part of one of the country’s first fossil fuel divestment campaigns at Swarthmore College and led that campaign through a 32-day sit-in that gained international recognition. She worked at the Divestment Student Network, training dozens of divestment campaigns across the US and globally before going on to co-found Sunrise. Sara is a proud Croatian New Yorker and currently serves as Managing Director of Sunrise.