It happened again. A country rocked by malice and violence and bloodshed. Again. A city in mourning. Again. Candlelight vigils, moments of silence. Again. Requisite, cliched – albeit heartfelt – “thoughts and prayers.” Again. Vehement condemnations, thorough investigations. Again. White and male. Again. A house of worship. Again.
This time, though, was unlike the unspeakable horrors that preceded it.
This time was pure, unadulterated hatred.
This time it wasn’t social awkwardness, history of being bullied, difficult home life, addiction to gruesome video games or previously diagnosed (or undiagnosed or misdiagnosed) mental illness that elicited the predictable retroactive “aha” moments. Here was an individual who repeatedly, graphicly and publiclyexpressed and displayed intense, baseless loathing of an entire religion and all its followers. An individual who flaunted his firearm collection – and fantasies of its use. An individual who held an entire group of people responsible for all the evil he perceived in his world.
That is the definition of anti-Semitism.
So much of what us Americans are currently feeling seems achingly familiar. Like humanity as a whole has been here before, with increasing frequency. It’s understandable how and why people across the gamut of faiths and lifestyles and even countries missed the detail that makes this so unlike all other mass shootings in this country.
This was anti-Semitism.
Read that again. Think about it. Dwell on it. Contemplate it. Reflect on it.
Anti-Semitism is not caused by the need for tighter gun control, so step off that soap box.
Anti-Semitism is not caused by lack of security or armed guards, so abandon that platform.
Anti-Semitism is not caused by individual mistakes or some bad apples so don’t even go there.
Anti- Semitism is hatred. It’s groundless. It’s thoughtless. It’s sometimes a mob mentality – even if that mob is just virtual and cowardly faceless. It’s intolerance. It’s refusal to communicate, to learn, to be open to understanding. It’s a lack of respect. It’s looking for – and reveling in – blame. It’s evil and wicked.
It behooves every person, every neighborhood, every family, every township, every city, every circle, every workplace, every government at every level to take a thorough look at their surroundings. The rhetoric spewed in Pennsylvania sounds too much like what we’ve heard in New Jersey. The “baseless loathing” is something we experience and see here too. The warped yet shamelessly articulated visions of the complete annihilation of a group of people has been expressed by some radicals living eerily close to us.
It is the responsibility of every decent and moral human being to respectfully stand up to those that blatantly disparage an entire race or religion or culture.
It is the responsibility of every department of law enforcement to do everything in their power to halt threatening verbiage and to prevent it from morphing into devastating actions.
It is the responsibility of every lawmaker to redefine the classification and meaning of terror and threat – and the ability to prosecute such behavior – without compromising the First Amendment.
It is the responsibility of every leader – be it leader of group, of family, of institution, of education – to lead with grace and humility and respect and acceptance of differences.
Failure to do so makes one complicit. Let us not be complicit in the destruction of life, of peace, of our children’s stability, of community, of country.
As the community of Pittsburgh mourns, as the country grieves, as the Jews around the world are filled with sorrow over the loss of our brothers, the support and love and comradery displayed across the country – indeed, across the world – from all walks of life prove that we are in this together.