By Rosetta Miller Perry
America has historically had a problem with racism and bigotry of all types. religious and ethnic. Sadly, this is a time when hate-filled bigots often aren’t content to just spew their venom verbally or on social media. Last Saturday’s despicable mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead and six others wounded has been called “the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States” according to the Anti-Defamation League. They’ve been monitoring anti-Semitic violence in this nation over 100 years.
It is the latest example of what is happening nationwide, as the members of various organizations founded and based on hatred feel empowered. No matter how much President Donald Trump tries to pretend his words and actions have no connection to these horrible events, the man who committed this crime at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue was taking his cue from the fact numerous white supremacist groups, including both the KKK and Neo-Nazis, have repeatedly said publicly they feel a kinship with Trump and see him as sympathetic to their cause.
Robert Bowers, the 46-year-old white man responsible for Saturday’s carnage, spent lots of time making anti-Semitic posts on social media. 17 days before he opened fire on this worship site he’d signaled plans to attack it with a post on Gab, one of several social media sites that are nesting grounds and havens for vile white supremacists. Bowers not only had an assault rifle, but three other handguns. He wounded two police officers and two SWAT team members before finally being shot and arrested.
An officer at the scene radioed Bowers was saying “all these Jews need to die.” But does anyone doubt he felt the same way about Blacks, Latinos, indeed anyone who didn’t fit his narrow definition of a worthy American. Hardcore bigots seldom stop at anti-Semitic thoughts.
Bowers’ horrific crime came only days after a host of explosive devices were mailed to prominent Democrats and other critics of President Trump, further ratcheting up a national sense of tension in the closing weeks of an intense midterm election campaign. Trump’s empty response to this horror consisted of some meandering words about how the negativity of hatred, coupled with the sentiment the synagogue should have posted armed guards.
Think about that for a moment. No denouncement of the white supremacist groups to which Bowers belonged, or their overall mentality. Just an implicit assertion it’s the synagogue’s fault for not conducting worship services in a wild west atmosphere, plus another of his “everybody’s guilty” laments.
Here’s a truth the Republicans don’t want to accept or acknowledge. During the eight years of President Obama’s administration, Democrats and Civil Rights groups weren’t sending explosive devices to Republican candidates. No member of the New Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter or any other group that this government considers “extremist” was going to predominantly white churches and firing assault weapons at their members. Even Neo-Nazi and KKK leaders were never physically attacked or threatened by Black activists.
President Obama often went out of his way to try and be bi-partisan and conciliatory in his tone and remarks when addressing racial issues. He definitely didn’t fan the flames of hatred, attack immigrants, or have overt bigots in his inner circle. He even welcomed columnists who devoted tons of ink to attacking him into the Oval Office, while never calling the media “enemies of the people,” or spending hours savaging people on Twitter.
Donald Trump has courted the worse elements in this society on a repeated basis, while spewing a stream of lies so extensive and consistent major newspapers are now employing entire units just to keep track of them. Given that kind of “leadership,” it’s no wonder people like Robert Bowers feel empowered to act as he did. We can only hope as a nation that eventually the plague of Trump will end. Hopefully, in the interim there won’t be many more incidents like what happened in Squirrel Hill, PA.
I express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends in a community that I admired and where at 16, I was hired into my first job as a live in baby sitter on the weekends while growing up in Coraopolis, Pa.