Only two days have passed since the tragic Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Like everyone else, my heart aches for the victims and their families. Like most other folks, I am also trying to come to terms with yet another mass shooting of innocents. This latest so similar to the massacre of African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, in June of 2015. Back then, nine people were murdered while they prayed. In Pittsburgh, eleven people were killed. In a synagogue. A house of prayer.
It is impossible to make sense of heinous crimes like this. We have categories, of course. But they fail. Words like “hate crime” come up. Also racism, anti-Semitism. You know the ones.
What makes no sense to me is the rush to blame others for what Robert Bowers did on October 27th. But of course, that’s what people are doing. Some say President Trump’s divisive rhetoric was responsible. And it is worth noting - indeed it cannot be ignored - that several members of the president's own party, including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, declined to appear with him during his post-shooting Pittsburgh visit. The mayor of Pittsburgh asked him not to come. The family of one of the victims refused to meet with him. And nearly two thousand marchers met Trump's motorcade in Pittsburgh to protest his divisive rhetoric.
Others ask how Trump can be responsible for the Pittsburgh shooting when some of his closest friends are Jewish. And didn’t he recently show his support for Israel by relocating the US embassy there?
The president himself has blamed the mainstream media, once again calling it “the enemy of the people.” He has also denied televised evidence that his visit to Pittsburgh was marked by protests. Meanwhile, an op-ed in the National Review says there is a difference between "incite" and "inspire," arguing that while Trump may have inspired Bowers, he did not incite the violence.
The rhetoric of hate and divisiveness surrounds us at every turn. It’s in the palm of your hand and on the nightstand next to your bed. It follows you into the bathroom as you check the Babel-like cacophony that surrounds the planet like a menacing cloud.
Escalation on one side breeds escalation on the other side. The volume is turned way up. No one can hear what anyone else is saying. And no one wants to hear.
Many of us identify with our politics so much we see no other possibility for who we might be. We have drawn a line in the sand. You are either with me or against me. And if you’re against me…
For the time being, I side with Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, who tweeted: “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” And to pray. A song comes to mind: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
Everyone thinks of changing the world,
Finally, there are these words from Bobby Kennedy from a speech given 50 years ago, one day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As relevant today as in the past. Here are six minutes of healing discourse missing from today's dialogue--and needed now more than ever.
I'm a storyteller whose background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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