America slowly losing title as a place of hope

Trouble in our time makes us look for happy things, things that help to make us feel at least a little bit better about the dire circumstances surrounding us.
We cling to those bits of humor, love, or wisdom, grabbing onto them as they fly past our consciousness, and hold them tight, as if they are talismans that might protect us from the next round of bullets.
Since Tree of Life in Pittsburgh — which is already almost 10 fast-flown months ago — we’ve wept again with those others in so many unlikely places, with Dayton and El Paso at the end of the list. Anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide; here in our own country, white supremacists target blacks and Hispanics, too — even those who are bona-fide citizens. Nothing makes any difference now; anyone with a grudge and a gun just gets out there and shoots, seemingly at random.
I come from a time when “The policeman is your friend” was taught to us at home and in kindergarten. And he was. Now I thank the policeman who stands guard at the door of my synagogue and walks its perimeter, but my words are these: “I’m glad you’re here. But I’m sorry you have to be here.” Sadly, policemen are not always people’s friends anymore; often they are also afraid, shooting in anticipation of being shot themselves. Our culture is now one of fear. Although we tell ourselves after every attack that our society is strong, that we will work together to overcome, I, for one, must sadly confess to some disbelief. These days, I look at our Jewish institutions here in North Texas, and I’m no longer thinking “If…,” but rather “When…”
But I also look for, and welcome and enjoy, those happy tales that bring me bits of relief, and here is one worth passing along.
It comes from a good friend, Roger — not Jewish — but who has at least one other good Jewish friend beside me, John. The two were classmates in college here in Texas, but my friend’s friend has lived and worked in California since their graduation a number of years ago. Now, since both are history buffs, their recent online exchange relating to Texas heroes of the past — centering on information about Maribeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas — brought forth this surprising Jewish family history:
“My Austrian immigrant parents fleeing the Nazis in 1938, were so happy to land in Texas that they vowed to give their future kids the middle names of Texas heroes,” John wrote. “So my older brother was named Lawrence Lamar, and I followed as John Travis.” (The next one, he says, would have been middle-named Bowie, but there never was a third son in the family.)
John continued, “My folks spoke German and Yiddish, and very little English, yet they wanted to do this.” Roger reports that the two men met and became lifelong friends at their alma mater, Lamar University in Beaumont, a public institution that is a member of the Texas State University System. Lamar University started out as South Park Junior College, but worked its way up to full-service university status with degrees from bachelor through doctorate. It was renamed in 1971 after Lamar, who is fondly remembered, in addition to his presidency, as Texas’ “Father of Education.”
Somehow, all this seems particularly apt now in view of this Lamar quote, which Roger also passed on to me with his bit of friendship history: “The cultivated mind is the guardian genius of Democracy, and while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge, and the only security which freemen desire.”
“Feel free to use it,” Roger added. “I’m sure my friend John Travis will approve!” My thought: Only education can save us now.

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