Every time I think we have sunk as low as possible in this country, we sink still further. It’s almost like a caricature of the dance, the “limbo.” (“How low can you go.”)
I don’t want to make this blog political; I will stipulate that there is plenty of blame to go around. In my view, the perpetrators, include the prominent political leaders of BOTH political parties, most of the media, and various celebrities. (We can debate as to which side is more to blame, but that would obscure the main issue.)
I’m not citing everyone, but those of us who have been paying attention know who they are. All of the above persons seem more intent on blaming the other side for whatever happens, regardless of the facts. You criticize me; I respond in kind; and few persons are willing to have a meaningful debate of the issues and work toward a reasonable solution. We seem to have forgotten the art of compromise. Nothing gets done, and it is frustrating to many people. If you disagree with me, rather than respect your opinion, discuss the differences, and seek common ground, I label you as an “evil” person, a “bigot” or “unhinged,” and you respond in kind.
In my opinion, this is not a new phenomenon. It has been building for several years. The first stage was incivility; then, we progressed to name calling, as noted above. At some, point, people stopped listening to each other; demonstrators exercising their constitutional right of free speech were attacked. Some radicals even advocated eliminating the basic legal tenant of the presumption of innocence, which is based on 1,000 years of English law and guaranteed by the Constitution. All of the above have been exacerbated by social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and the impending mid-term elections.
Many of us predicted the next step; it was almost inevitable – violence. There will always be a fringe element of deranged individuals, who, unduly influenced by all the rhetoric, will act out violently. For example, we had the Steve Scalise shooting on a ballfield. We have endured a series of school shootings, and, finally, Saturday’s attack at a place of worship, on the Sabbath.
Is nothing, no place, sacred? Imagine you leave your home on the Sabbath to worship at your church, synagogue or mosque. Of course, you expect to return home safe and sound. You’ve done this thousands of times, right. It is safe, sacred, right. Yes, it is – until it isn’t.
By now, we all know what happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. No need to repeat all the gruesome facts. Afterwards, the perp freely admitted he merely wanted to “kill Jews.” Not a specific Jew or Jews. Any Jew, didn’t matter which ones. Why? In his twisted, deranged mind “they” were “committing genocide to my people.” He had posted a rant on social media foretelling of his attack. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered…I’m going in.” Who are “his people?” We don’t exactly know. I’m not sure even he knows. However, according to the “Times of Israel” Bowers belongs to an alt-right social media outlet called Gab, is a self=described Nazi and an admirer of, you guessed it, Adolph Hitler. The persons he murdered had not harmed “his people.” They were symbols and just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The perp’s murderous rampage was universally condemned by everyone, including President Trump, other world leaders, other politicians and various media outlets. For example, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive and national director of the Anti-Defamation League characterized it as “the single most lethal and violent attack on the Jewish community in the history of the country.” Robert Jones, SAC of the FBI office in Pittsburgh, called the crime scene the “most horrific…I have seen.”
All well and good, but I believe it would be a mistake to view this as merely an isolated act by a deranged gunman. Violence has been increasing all over the world in recent years. According to the “New York Times” this was merely the latest in a string of mass shootings in the US in the past few years, including, among others, various schools, churches and a Sikh temple.
I believe, as part of the overall trend, Jews have been targeted disproportionately. According to the ADL incidents of anti-Semitic hate attacks rose some 50% in 2017. It cited in excess of 2,000 separate incidents. The rise of white nationalism in various European countries, such as Germany, France, the UK and Sweden, has been well-documented. (I have blogged on this topic a few times.)
Emigration to Israel is increasing as many Jews feel uncomfortable in their “home” country. To those of us with a sense of history, this pattern is all too familiar. I don’t believe it is too outlandish to compare the situation in some European countries to that of Germany in the 1930s.