Most of this piece was written last October, shortly after the murders at the Pittsburgh synagogue. I shared it with a few. But now, in light of Poway, in light of yet another far right extremist yet again using an AR-15 that should never be allowed on the streets, I am writing this update.
I was in synagogue for Shabbat services on that Saturday morning when word started filtering in about the events in Pittsburgh. For some time, our synagogue has had an armed guard (off duty police officer) present each Shabbat, and a larger presence during the High Holy Days. Plus, one of our members and regular Shabbat attendee is a retired police officer and has an ear piece in to communicate with the guard and outside agencies if needed.
That we should even have to take such precautions in the 21st century in the U.S. is a sad commentary on the persistence of the world’s oldest hatred. That the recent mail bomber and the Poway and Pittsburgh shooters were adherents from the far right is reason for obvious concern and action, but recent events reconfirm that there are just as bad anti-Semites on the progressive left; the perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish targets in Europe are otherwise darlings of the left.
In just the last few days, after Poway, a U.S. military veteran who converted to Islam was arrested in the midst of planning terror attacks against white nationalists, but also against Jews, saying that he “discussed picking off Jews walking to synagogue, shooting police officers or attacking a church or military base, according to investigators.” Police, FBI thwart Army veteran’s plan to bomb Nazi rally. He was an all-purpose hater. Sorry folks, but concern about Muslim extremists in the United States is NOT “Islamophobia.” And being Muslim is not an excuse for making anti-Semitic comments – it is not the fact that the person is Muslim that makes such comments so evil; it is the content of the statements themselves, no matter who says them or their politics.
I have always been an ardent supporter of gun control – there is no reason in the world why ANYONE should legally own an AR-15 such as that used by the Pittsburgh and Poway murderers. This post discusses the need for gun control, and how even SCOTUS opinions actually allow it if only there was a political will for it – and how BOTH sides are wrong in how they approach the issue. It also points out that the talisman of a “good guy with a gun” – as our President mentioned again this weekend – is not a solution and, more importantly, not a desirable goal. As I wrote: “Turning our schools and other public places into armed camps has its own set of issues. The Wild West is not a desirable ideal.”
But more must be done – we must change attitudes, and the awful language about other people used by both sides of the political spectrum. The venomous use of words must end. It is a slow process, but we must begin ourselves. One can debate vigorously without name calling. But too many refuse to even engage in the debate, assuming that they, and only they, know all the answers.
Whether it is the liberal Bernie Sanders supporter who shot at members of Congress on a softball field or the Trump-supporting evil people who sent pipe bombs or entered a synagogue on Shabbat, the extreme words are far too often becoming main stream – and THIS is what we must stop if we ever hope to affect change. Here is my post on that, although in the context of international language about Israel: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/language-matters-israel-an…/
Words matter. Whether it is the absurd, often abusive language used by the President or the abhorrent behavior of Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearings, whether it is encouraging disrespect of immigrants or encouraging opponents of a particular party to harass members of Congress when they are out to dinner with their families, these kinds of things lead to unstable people deciding that violence is an acceptable response. We can NEVER accept the normalization of the use of anti-Semitic language and images (including in the New York Times) – especially from members of Congress (see, https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/house-resolution-on-anti-semitism-almost-acceptable/ ; https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/even-rep-omars-apology-was-problematic/).
After now-Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed, one progressive protester outside of SCOTUS held up a sign that said “F**k Civility” (except that he did not uses asterisks). THAT is the problem, more than anything. And THAT is what we need to spend our time working on.