In the Suburbs / Only we can stop the groundswell of hate dividing America
Hate fueled the production and distribution of more than 15 pipe bombs to innocent Democratic politicians. Hate in the form of Robert Bowers entered a Pittsburgh synagogue and snuffed out the lives of 11 innocent Jews praying on a quiet Shabbat morning. Hate is driving so many of the midterm election campaigns. And words of hate have become the cornerstone of an America, now so fractured that we are all at a loss about how to fix it.
Last week, Americans were shocked by yet another security breach that enabled Cesar Sayoc, a Florida strip club DJ and pizza delivery man, allegedly living out of his van plastered with Trump-filled stickers, to cook up pipe bombs filled with glass shards and mail them to people like George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Robert DeNiro, former President Barack Obama and Cory Booker, among others. His hatred accented these acts of evil and his list of targets was more extensive than the core group who received these bombs. Fortunately, none detonated.
On Saturday morning, just as Americans were trying to make sense of Sayoc’s alleged acts, Bowers of central Pennsylvania personified hate as he burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue, shouting “All Jews must die” and murdering righteous people whose only act was praying in the sanctuary of the Tree of Life congregation. Eleven souls, ages 54 to 97, were shot dead in their seats or as they tried to flee this embodiment of hate. According to an editorial in Tuesday’s edition of the Connecticut Post, “Among righteous people, an angry bile of frustration rises. As we approach Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass — November 9, 1938, when Nazis attacked synagogues, homes schools and businesses of German Jews — is this where we are?
“Of course, the homicidal action of a deranged individual is not the signal of a national groundswell, but an unsettling wind of extremism—from politics to racism and other forms of bigotry — is afoot in this country.” The editor reminded us that the Pittsburgh attack was really an attack of hatred on all of us. I couldn’t agree more.
Sadly, hate is saturating many of the midterm election campaigns, particularly in states like Florida, where Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee is making a bid for the gubernatorial seat, and Georgia where Stacey Abrams is making a similar case
According to CNN reporter Eric Bradner, “A racist robocall targeted Andrew Gillum days after the Tallahassee mayor won the Democratic nomination in the Florida governor’s race, giving him a shot at becoming the state’s first black chief executive.
“The 78-second prerecorded message, obtained by CNN, is narrated by a man speaking in a caricature of a black dialect with cartoonish jungle noises in the background. It ends with a disclaimer that it was paid for by The Road to Power, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic video podcast hosted by Scott Rhodes of Idaho.
And despite the horrific acts of hatred that have permeated our society in the past week, words of hate and venom, many coming from comments and tweets by our president, continue to generate more divisiveness than I would have ever imagined in a democracy like ours. And frankly I don’t see things getting any better. Clearly, the president is helping to build a foundation of hate across the nation.
For example, on the day of the shooting in Pittsburgh, considered the worst attack on American Jews in history, President Trump indirectly blamed the victims by saying that if there was an armed guard present in the synagogue, the shooter wouldn’t have succeeded. Later in the day, continuing his journey on the campaign trail, instead of showing compassion for the victims by either suspending his rally or traveling to Pittsburgh to comfort families, Trump continued to insult members of the Democratic Party and speak about his bad hair day, fueling laughter and no appropriate memorial to victims.
When officials from the city of Pittsburgh and the city’s Jewish community sent a message that the president would not be welcome at the funerals of victims unless he renounced his attitude of nationalism and his racist rhetoric, Trump ignored that request and came to Pittsburgh with Melania anyway. He was hardly a consoler in chief.
As presidential historian Jon Meacham told Lawrence O’Donnell in an MSNBC interview this past week, when asked if this president could ever show any signs of compassion, “We have a president bound up in nationalism, narcissism and nastiness.”
As the midterm elections approach next week, none of us can afford to let hatred take a holiday and continue to divide our country. The only way we can begin to heal the hatred is to get out and vote in and elect leaders who will make a difference.