I’m from Pittsburgh, and those roots run deep.
Now it is my city that has been the site of the latest atrocity, the latest mass killing, and this one with the dark and nasty motivation of anti-Semitism, one of the world’s most enduring hates.
I can’t think of it without tears welling up in my eyes.
My country is in a dark, dark place. I am by nature a very optimistic person, but now even I’m not sure we will ever emerge from the darkness. The hate is overwhelming all that is best in us, and that hate is made even more dangerous by the ease with which any damaged or deranged individual brimming with that hate can acquire an arsenal of destruction.
And that hate is not an accidental byproduct of a dark time. It has been deliberately cultivated for cynical political reasons, and it is still being nourished on a daily basis by countless voices identifying various groups, races, religions, etc, as “the enemy”.
As “the Other”. Not like us. Different in very important ways. Suspect. Dangerous. Perhaps even evil. Not because of anything they have specifically done, but because of who they are. Their race. Their religion. Their gender identity.
Those encouraging the hate deny all responsibility, of course, and publicly deplore the violence themselves. But they keep doing it. And they know it can lead to violence. They seek to stir up passions to encourage political loyalty. Fear of “The Other” has always been a potent motivator throughout history, arousing xenophobic and nationalist passions that have driven wars and genocides over and over again.
Fear turns quickly to hate, and hate births violence and atrocity. The chain connecting hateful and divisive rhetoric to death and persecution is very clear throughout all of history.
It is clear now in America.
Many questions remain. What do we do about it? How do we hold those who spread such fear and divisiveness to account? How do we stop them and discredit them? How do we discourage them from doing it in the future? Ho do we prevent those who hate from arming themselves with potent instruments of destruction? How do we help to heal all those who have been morally wounded by it over the last few years? How do we restore our respect for each other?
It has to start with small steps, with people saying “NO MORE” as loudly as they can. Every time someone in media or politics speaks words of intolerance and fear, hatred and division, it needs to be condemned immediately by all people of good faith, regardless of political affiliation. Every time one of our relatives or friends or co-workers or church members or casual acquaintances voices hatred, intolerance and prejudice they need to know immediately that it is NOT ALRIGHT. That we will not stand for it.
We can’t go on as we have been. The cost is too high.
We must change.