“There is so much unchecked anger, and we’re not holding people accountable for dealing with that anger.” Dr. Rabbi Baruch HaLevi

Following the recent rise in anti-semitic attacks and hate crimes, Baruch called for all individuals to stand up and be accountable for change in this country. We can’t stand in silence and expect that change happens through somebody else. 

Watch his take on Fox Business News, where he is a regular contributor, and read more about Baruch’s central belief in taking responsibility below.

Recently, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines was assaulted by a passenger who knocked out her teeth–one of many such incidents as of late, according to the Association of Flight Attendants.

A few days ago, a six-year-old boy named Aiden Leos was fatally shot in the stomach while riding in the backseat of the car in an apparent road-rage attack. His final words were, “Mommy, my tummy hurts.”

Hate crimes against Asian Americans are surging. Jews are being targeted, harassed, threatened and attacked at a rate unprecedented in the history of this country. 

The obvious common denominator in each of these–beyond the heinous and cowardly nature of each crime–is anger. Obviously, from pissed off passengers to violent mobs, anger is seething in so many ways, within so many people, for so many reasons. However, it is far too simplistic to blame this outrageous aggression solely on anger. It’s a motivating force, but it is not the cause for wreaking havoc in our communities, terrorizing segments of our society, or destroying the lives of so many, like the murder of little Aiden and the horror his family is enduring.

This, however, is the consequence of the reality we are slowly but surely creating in our society. It is a perverse reality in which people are justifying their anger, excusing their behavior, or at the very least qualifying and contextualizing heinous actions, which under normal circumstances would never be explained away, in the name of victimhood. But that is what we are creating, a culture of victims:

It’s because of COVID.

It’s because of the economy.

It’s because of politics (red or blue).

It’s because of racism, marginalization, discrimination or Israeli “occupation.”

That is why we are justified in burning it down, punching you in the mouth, or assaulting men wearing yarmulkes and shouting, “death to the Jews.”

It’s not our fault. We are powerless. The circumstances are to blame. We are simply victims of those circumstances. They are to blame. You are to blame. Someone, anyone other than us, other than me, is to blame. I am simply a victim!

In an era of unprecedented animosity, anger and now violence, we need to start dealing with this victim culture and get to the underlying causes of what is happening. Although there are many issues at play, which we will be exploring in this blog and at Soul Centered, none is more central than responsibility. 

Responsibility, as Dr. Viktor Frankl taught, is the “essence of our existence.” It is what sets us apart from animals. It is with us at every moment, in every situation, regardless of circumstances. As Frankl wrote, “Each man is questioned by life, and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

Responsibility is about being accountable for one’s feelings. No one makes you angry. No one makes you powerless. No one makes you feel anything. That is something you, and you alone, choose to feel. Certainly no one can cause you to fire that bullet at a car, set fire to a building, loot a store or attack another human being.

Responsibility is about dealing with your feelings–do the work, go the therapy like the rest of us, and grow the F#*$&# up–that’s what responsible people do.

But at a deeper level still, as Dr. Frankl taught, responsibility is quite literally, response ability. You are not a victim. You are never a victim, regardless of your circumstances, no matter how oppressive, suffering filled or bleak they might be. As he wrote:

“…even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed, for what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation—we are challenged to change ourselves.”

It’s time to put an end to victimization and hold the victimizers accountable for sure. However, just as important, it’s time to dismantle a culture which is fostering, encouraging, even celebrating victimhood. It’s time for accountability. It’s time for responsibility. During these challenging times, it’s time to take back our power and change ourselves!