Flowers surround signs on Wednesday, part of a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue to the 11 people killed during worship services Saturday Oct. 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I wrote about the situational awareness that defines the endless stream of domestic terror attacks in this country (“This Is Terrorism,” The Times-Record, Feb 28).  Nine months later this continues to intensify with last week’s delivery of at least 15 improvised explosive devices and the Synagogue attack in Pittsburgh.  Any thinking person must ask, “what is the real reason this keeps happening?”

We talk about terrorists in the Gulf Region being radicalized through groups they attend, their Mosques, and by social media.  Let there be no doubt that this is occurring in our country.  Leading by example, the president, has mastered the radicalization of domestic terrorists who have perpetrated attacks on our own citizens.  On the people he has sworn to protect.

The Republican standard bearer knows that words matter.  He has sold products, contributed to books, and run a campaign.  To shrug and say, “Who me?” shows a willful ignorance that only compounds his complicity in every casualty.  On Monday afternoon, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the press secretary, simultaneously feigned shock and indignation when a reporter asked this very question.  It was as if she was admitting that the president of the United States sees himself as merely a reality TV star and not the leader of the country.  If you campaign for the president, if the president campaigns for you, or if you work for the president you bear responsibility for every riot, speeding car, and each death.  Whom you egg-on and what you say matters.

Time and again, the president reads in a monotone from the prompter like a petulant child made to recite his homework.  He then returns, nearly with a wink and a nod, to shouting an incessant string of inflammatory lies.  This past weekend he justified attending a campaign rally by saying the stock exchange opened on September 12th, 2001, the morning after the 9-11 attacks.  This could not be further from the truth.  The New York Stock Exchange did not open until September 17th.  It could not have.  There was no data service, no telephone service; lower Manhattan had been evacuated, and there was a smoldering pile a few blocks away where several thousand people, including acquaintances of mine, had died the previous morning.

The extraordinary rise of hate speech in this country including white nationalism, anti LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, and antisemitism is backed up with data.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the General Accounting Office, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the CATO Institute are among those indicating a rise in domestic, biased attacks.

Those appalled by hate, domestic terrorist ideology, and the all too frequent violent result must consider the appropriate punishments to be meted out upon the convicted actors.  We want to believe that those convicted of serious crimes can be rehabilitated.  Indeed, our Constitution, for lack of a better description, goes out of its way to protect even those who seek its destruction.

My struggle with this, I think, is part of being a Jew.  To be clear, I am about as far from a practicing member of my faith as one can get.  My ‘Jewishness’, if there is such a word, is based almost entirely on my grandparent’s immigration from Russia in 1906.  So, I am puzzled when I recall that the Talmud says that vengeance is reserved for God and that, “you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge.”  I also recall that when it was written, the stoning of disobedient children, polygamy, and slavery were all acceptable.  These laws were written, I suppose, with the greatest vision and wisdom of their day.

Society has a right to protect itself, and I want to believe that capital punishment is wrong by a modern standard.  However, faced with attacks designed to instill terror on groups who are not white, who are not straight; who are Jews or Muslims, or just plain different, leaves me unconvinced.  As I write this, I cannot say that capital punishment lacks value in the defense against these crimes, in this country.

The only certainty is that we must succeed against this darkness.  We must, as Rep. John Lewis says, “Get in the way, in the right way.”  There is no action that can be passed up be it this meandering editorial, motivating voters, or becoming first name pals with the legislative staff of our elected officials.

Neither silence nor failure are acceptable.  The future of our children in this Republic depends on our action now.

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a communist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

             — Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a Lutheran pastor imprisoned in Dachau.

 

Roo Dunn lives in Bath.

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