In a one week period, there has been more breaking news in the USA than I have seen since 9/11. Pipe bombs sent to public figures including two former Presidents, a former Secretary of State and CNN. A grocery shooting in Kentucky, a hate crime that targeted African Americans resulted in the death of two people, one of whom was shielding his 12 year old grandson. Megyn Kelly speaking about how dressing up in black face was acceptable as Halloween costumes when she was growing up and it is not such a big deal (huh?). Finally, the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that resulted in the murder of 11 people with another 6 injured including, and this is important, 4 police officers.
This whole week saw President Trump acting anything but presidential. He blamed the media, which is where I have worked for the last 20 years, for the domestic terrorism in the US that I referenced. The media is made up of many people who work behind the scenes to make the news, morning shows, lifestyle shows and entertainment shows happen. The people that had the greatest potential for injury were the people in the mail room or the security guards, not the “fake media” that the President so loves to reference. This very man did not even reference the shootings in Kentucky. He managed to tweet about the World Series, but not even a word about this particular shooting. I am not sure if it is because “only” two people died or if it is because the two victims were African American.
The President identifies himself as a nationalist. Think about someone else that identified himself in the same way – Hitler. Last year, it was shocking seeing to see the white supremacists march the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us”. People in the community held a counter-protest resulting in the death of a woman and the President said that was blame to be had on both sides. While I do not believe that Trump alone is to blame for the environment of intolerance that I am seeing now, he has allowed people the platform to be open about their hatred. He is also supported by the National Rifle Association (the NRA). Here was his response to the tragic shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh:
“If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation,” Trump said. “They didn’t have protection. They had a maniac walk in and they didn’t have any protection. If there was an armed guard inside the temple they would have been able to stop him. Maybe there would have been nobody killed except for him, frankly,” Trump continued. “Isn’t it a shame that you have to think of that inside a temple or inside a church? But certainly, the result would have been far better.”
Can we please get real for 1 minute? The shooting still would have happened, in fact, the armed guard would likely have been the first casualty. More guns are not the answer to gun violence. No one should have to be at a house of worship with armed guards regardless of your religion. Armed guards just mean more bullets and more targets. The answer is twofold – tolerance and gun control. No one needs an automatic assault rifle to defend themselves. We have strict gun laws in Canada – and yes, while shootings do happen, because if you really want to get a hold of a gun, you will, it is not a daily event. How many more mass shootings do there need to be? How many more candle-light vigils and marches need to happen before current administration in the States gets a clue? Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both tried to pass gun control laws. It’s time to stop pandering to a gun lobby and show value for life.
What happened in Pittsburgh was so devastating. I have written about my own experiences with Anti-Semitism before (https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/being-different-in-a-trump-sort-of-world/) I mentioned that in this article that when I do go to synagogue, that I often have to go to security before I am allowed in. It is my normal, but imagine having to do that. Imagine, for a moment, if you will, being a 97 year old Holocaust survivor going to Sabbath services in your adopted country. Surviving the brutal death camps only to be shot and killed by an anti-Semite? Imagine how this makes other survivors feel or children and grandchildren of survivors? Imagine knowing that because you are a minority, that this could happen to you? Imagine looking at social media today and seeing your Jewish friends send out messages of hope to the community of Pittsburgh, but only your Jewish friends? I remember seeing so many London Strong/Paris Strong/Boston Strong/Istanbul Strong/New York Strong photo frames going up, but today, I see only a few Pittsburgh Strong frames.
We all have a duty to speak out against hatred. I watched CNN this morning, for the first time in a long time, and Jake Tapper ended his panel with this quote from Mister Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”
There are more good people than bad in the world, and I have seen these helpers first hand, but here is another quote from the very same man that spoke to me:
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
Be a hero – speak out against hatred and bigotry and intolerance, wherever you see it. Don’t just like this post – act. If someone around you spouts hatred of any kind towards any race or people of any sexual orientation, speak up and let them know that you will not tolerate this. When Jews say confession on Yom Kippur to atone for our sins, we say it as a community, because if one of us is guilty, all of us are guilty. We also believe that if you save one life, it is the same as saving all of mankind. Think about that…if you speak out against one type of intolerance, you are speaking out against all types of intolerance.