I was a 16-year old. My father (56), my younger sister (12) and I were walking home from the movies on a Saturday night along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. As we were discussing the film we had just seen, we were “jumped” by two young men.
Out of pure instinct, my father wrestled the much younger man who attacked him. The attacker couldn’t fathom the resistance he received, so he emphatically yelled to his partner, “Cut her!”
I looked to my right and sure enough, the young man’s partner held a 10-inch blade to my baby sister’s neck.
My sister pleaded, “Please don’t kill me.”
I desperately yelled, “Pop, he has a knife to Rachel’s neck. Stop!”
My father got a hold of his emotion and pulled back. The man kept the blade at my sister’s neck for another minute. It felt like an eternity. They withdrew, with my father’s whole pants pocket ripped away; his wallet; and our breath. We survived. To this day, I can recall that memory as easily as I can any in the cycle of my being.
The entire episode lasted minutes, but the flashbacks have lasted throughout my years. I review the images and can’t help but to see how things could have been tragically different.
If I had a gun, I would have used it in an instant.
There is a famous Talmudic text, which teaches that we can’t understand the Truth we reject until we actually internalize and teach that Truth like it is our own. Looking back at that night in Brooklyn, I am able to put myself in the shoes of someone who believes the opposite of what I believe. I don’t believe in owning a gun, but I understand why people would want to exercise that right.
I believe in the depth of dichotomy. I have learned volumes from the wisdom of the dialectic. I know the diverse contours of our Nation call for different needs from different types of people. We are all entitled to our point of view. But, given the sleepless nights our country has experienced this past week, I beg from others only what I am asking from myself: that is, simply to engage in a complicated, civil conversation, without running for cover from “dug-in” positions. There is simply too much as stake.