I Came to America to Escape the Anarchy You Saw at the Capitol


Editor’s Note: On Friday, Jan. 8, Rabbi Mira Rivera read this “letter to my son and daughter” during “We The People: An Interfaith Virtual Vigil for Democracy,” an online event organized by the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in response to the storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters last week. Rabbi Rivera, born in the Philippines, is associate rabbi and director of pastoral care at Romemu.

Dear Ben and Ari,

After the recent elections it was easier to look you in the eye and say to you again that Truth matters, and all the more so today. 

That anarchy that you saw was everything I was running away from. That is why I had to come back to the safety of the country of my birth, these United States of America. In our nation’s capital, where your Lola (maternal grandmother) served as an MD for decades, what you saw was preening privilege and unholy disrespect for country and law, a hint of the noxious pus that has been festering for centuries in this nation. 

Are you entirely surprised? You have grown up around messages of who counts, who belongs, who is in, who is out. You have been breathing this smog of divisive rhetoric, this smog laced with the intoxication of entitlement. And you’ve asked on many an occasion — fill in the blank with whatever issue — “Why do we have to?” Because we do. We move about the world as our ancestors have, with resilience, with respect and dignity, responsible for one another, giving others the benefit of the doubt. We respect and preserve human life even if we disagree with the other, even if everyone else around us preens in the privilege and pleasure of their ways.

As for those who taunt, name call, humiliate, belittle and try to crush others with their might, they said it was “childish.” But you kids know better. That was nothing but boorish bullying criminally elevated to the national stage. 

And before you go to bed tonight, know that Auntie Yavilah (McCoy) called — of course she would call –to remind us that Georgia, the state that sits in the heart of white supremacy, elected a Black American and a Jewish American to the Senate. Don’t let them take that celebration away! If Georgia can face its own in the heart of white supremacy and say, “Unh uh, not on my watch” so can the rest of our beloved United States of America. 

And if you are finding it hard to breathe, I am right here. I am struggling as well. Way before George Floyd was murdered, there were many people in this country who’ve been having difficulty breathing. But in this election enough of us said, “Enough, we want to breathe.” So unh uh, not on my watch. Because on my watch being a good person matters. Being a courageous and compassionate Jew matters. Black and brown lives matter. Caring about America matters. Standing up for what is right matters. Love and respect life and go find those who are like-minded and walk with them. Venceremos, we shall overcome.