If you were to say Alice to people of a certain generation and ask them the first thing that came to mind, they might say Alice in Wonderland or they might talk about the Arlo Guthrie album Alice’s restaurant or the group Alice in Chains or Go Ask Alice or Alice Cooper.
If you ask a kid what Alice is, it’s active shooter training.
That’s what they’re learning in school — ALICE is an acronym:
Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
High school kids, that’s what ALICE means to them. Kids seven years old, that’s what ALICE means to them. They go to school and they don’t know what’s going to happen. Their parents don’t know what’s going to happen.
What kind of country has to teach active shooter training to seven year olds? I am tired of offering thoughts and prayers over children. I am ashamed, as an adult, that these children have to live in fear and anxiety.
When I was a kid, there was still kind of the leftover fear of the Soviet Union, that the big one was coming. I know some of you had to hide under your desks in training … because that was going to stop a nuclear bomb. But that was a threat that was very far away.
This is a threat at home. And it’s not just the fear of physical violence, but it’s the loss of innocence. Children are supposed to be children. They are supposed to have childhoods. They are supposed to have their Wonderland. And it comes to an end and you learn about the world and you become an adult, but it’s supposed to happen at a certain time and it’s supposed to happen in order.
I am so sad that the children of today have to live in this fear. And also that the odds are pretty good they will be the first generation to live worse than the generation that came before it. It is harder to buy a house. It is harder to find a job. If you are wondering why kids are waiting longer and longer to have children, it’s not that they’re selfish — it’s not that they want to finish traveling the world.
They want to be able to move out of their parents’ basement. They want to be able to have a job. They want to be able to have some dignity and they want to be able to not be crushed by loans.
When we go into a shiva home or at the end of a funeral, we say to the mourner, Ha'makom yenahem etkhem betokh she'ar avelei Tziyonvi'Yerushalayim: May be you be comforted among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Well, who are the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem? It’s us. May they be comforted among us. But why do we need comfort over Zion and Jerusalem? It’s because the amount of hatred that we allowed to exist in the world caused us to lose the center of our existence. We lost Jerusalem. We lost our political independence for two thousand years because we couldn’t protect each other — because of our anger, because of our differences, because of our own petty needs.
And we allowed the Temple to fall. The Maccabees said to themselves, We are rebuilding that Temple. We are restoring that Temple. We are going to find a way to protect each other. We are going to find a way to protect the next generation.
That’s what l’dor v’dor means. It means that one generation makes it possible for the next generation to thrive. If you look at our tradition, if you look at the Book of Prophets, it’s not “thoughts and prayers.” Those have a place — in shul.
But when you go out, they all said, Get involved, be active, you have to do something. You have to get involved in politics.
And if you say I shouldn’t say the word politics, then you should also say we should never chant another haftarah — don’t say the Kiddusha because that’s Isaiah.
I don’t care what party you’re involved with. I don’t care the position that you take. I’ve got opinions. What I care is that you stand up for the next generation — that you make your decisions for the health and safety and happiness of those who are going to come after us. You’ve got to find a way to support candidates and vote and make sure that people can vote.
The only way things change in this country — the only way things change in the world in any kind of civilized society — is through voting. Through elections. Through standing up for what you believe in.
I’m not telling you what party. And I would suggest that you spend the most time on the party you’re embarrassed by the most. And it could be your own; neither is a nachas at the moment. What matters is that we go beyond the thoughts and prayers. And that we find a way to have leadership in our government that says, Our children have hope. They have a reason to think that their lives can be better.
I want the next generation to want to have the next generation. Some of that is selfish: our grandchildren are currently fictitious. They’re lovely, very well behaved and do everything that we say. I am looking forward to rambunctious, difficult, energy-sapping actual ones someday.
But just the idea of this generation — they’re not sure that they can bring children themselves into this world because it’s scary. And it’s not just scary because of the violence. Bui it’s scary because of opportunity. It’s scary because of how we model how we talk to each other. That’s the part that we have to work on.
We have to be the Maccabees for the next generation. We have to give them a reason to light the light. We have to give them a reason to be the light.
And we have to find a way that, when we say Alice, they think Wonderland.