Land of Confusion

As a member of Generation X, my brain is hardwired to generate pop culture references from the 1980’s when I grew up. In 1986, the British band Genesis released a great album titled Invisible Touch. One of the best songs on that album was Land of Confusion. One of the lyrics was “There’s too many men, too many people, making too many problems, and not enough love to go ‘round..” True back in 1986, and true now, almost 40 years later.

So many of the people and institutions of influence and power we took for granted have thrown us for a loop. Both Republicans and Democrats have seen their parties splinter, and electoral politics is becoming a throbbing headache more than an intellectual challenge and moral choice. And nothing is simple. See a supportive policy or bold move on our issues? Well, there’s a caveat and something negative around the corner. See shared values and common background? Well, there’s an ideological cost, and the possibility of being attacked by putative friends. See a strong economic or social approach? Well, there’s a wing or caucus that lives for conspiracy theories and looks for someone to blame. New ideas these days are on the fringes of coherence and reasonableness, instead of on the shared edge of compromise and solution.

It isn’t just in electoral politics either. It is, as I have written, also in how we think about Israel. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers. We know the IDF is a moral army doing an immensely difficult task. We hug each other as we weep for the hostages. But we’re also looking at responsibility for the failures pre-October 7. We’re also hoping for an inclusive government, a functional government, that can heal Israel’s wounds. It's hard to see how that materializes without the goodwill and unity we are all clinging to.

I wish I had answers for these and other confusing challenges. In some literature, the answer is to consider and prepare for all possibilities and probabilities. Frank Herbert’s Mentats in Dune or GRR Martin’s Littlefinger in Game of Thrones would do just that. But calculation and preparation alone will not soothe the tumult.

My suggestion - after determining that you think and act for the benefit of your family, your community, and your people - is to start small, and do what you can be confident of accomplishing. Be kind. Have more generosity of spirit for someone in your family, your circle of friends, or your community who doesn’t share all of your positions or values. Be patient, as too many of us are in the same boat, trying to find our way in a changed, confusing world. Be proud. Your tradition gives you tools and texts for reasoning, moral clarity, or prayer. Use them.

You may not find your way through all of the confusion, but I guarantee that you will feel better and more at peace with yourself than if you turn towards those who would capitalize on division on any part of the political, religious, or ideological spectrum.

The song ends with memory - “I remember long ago, when the sun was shining and the stars were bright, all through the night, and the sound of your laughter, as I held you tight, so long ago” and determination - “I won’t be coming home tonight, My generation will set it right.” Memory and determination are the hallmarks of our people. We may live in a land or a time of confusion, but we remember. And we are more determined than ever, to do good, together.

That’s what we do at the Federation. Join us. Support us. Stand together with us.

Shabbat Shalom