Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Can Human Goodness Sustain in the Face of Hate and Killing?

We know that the answer is yes. We also know that it is often hard to see this in an atmosphere of divisiveness, projected evil, hate, prejudice, fear and killing.

In a matter of days this country has absorbed the delivery of pipe-bomb threats to two former presidents and high-ranking Democrats who criticized President Trump;the horrific rampage by an anti-sematic fanatic who gunned down eleven members of the Tree of Life Congregation while they were attending services; and the continued projections of evil and danger on a Caravan of refugees walking thousands of miles to the US border in search of safety, shelter, food and jobs.

Where is the good?

“Dark Times Always Reveal Good People.” (Remarque)

Despite the great loss of life from the deadliest anti-Semitic attack on the Jewish community in recent US history, The Tree of Life Congregation had no words of malice or blame. Their response, much like the members of the Church Congregations in Sutherland Springs, Texas and Charleston, S.C. who also suffered mass violence, has been to care for their community members. Residents of their city, worshippers of every faith, people across the nation and across the globe have responded with with an outpouring of support, compassion and intolerance for hate crimes.

It is ironic that the trigger for activating the fractured thinking and violence of the gunman was the gunman’s awareness of the Hebrew American Aid Society (HAIS), a Jewish non-profit organization which was planning to offer a Shabbat ceremony for refugees in locations around the country. He misconstrued their generous outreach to those in need as support for “invaders who would kill our people.”

It is likely that HAIS’s outreach will continue as will the outreach of compassion and care that has been given to those in the caravan who have been traveling to our border. UNICEF estimates that 2,300 of them are children. As they cover some 20 miles a day on foot many have suffered dehydration, respiratory illness, gastrointestinal problems etc.  Despite the way they have been described,  they have been helped by people along the way. In certain cities medical tents have been set up, good Samaritans have offered rides, residents have offered food, water and floors of their homes for sleeping. Officials in certain cities have deployed members of their staff to care for the group. Many have been encouraged to stay if they can’t move on. The United Nations refuge agency reports that 1500 of the group have lodged claims for asylum in Mexico.

The number of those able to reach the border to the US. will be less than the group that started. When they reach our door – how will they be greeted?

The inscription on the statue of liberty reflects the essential goodness of humanity we uphold.

                                            “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There is some talk that those seeking asylum will be turned away although that would be in violation of US and International Law. If not, they, like so many others who have come, will be held in detention for months until they are offered a hearing to validate the credibility of their need for asylum. Their children may be separated from them.

In conditions which may be far below what they should, some will nonetheless come across the care and efforts of a prison or border guard or staff member who will treat them with humanity. Some will have the opportunity to be represented by immigration lawyers, many pro bono, most working non-stop, to help these refugees. Attorneys in groups like The Immigration Justice Project, The Southeast Immigration Freedom Initiative or the Immigration Law Clinic at Albany Law School, to name just a few, face incredible odds of being successful in terms of the labyrinth of immigration law, as they listen and contain the stories of violence, fear and trauma that refugees have faced. We don’t know how it will end but we know that at the very least someone cared and “pain shared is pain divided” (David Grossman).


“Man’s Goodness is a Flame That Can Be Hidden But Never Extinguished”

(Nelson Mandela)