Remembering the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s ugliest hate crimes- the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh one year ago today. It is yet one more anniversary of a heinous mass shooting where Americans are reminded of the easy access to guns to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Only in America does this happen on an almost daily basis. In fact there really isn’t one day of the year when there is not an anniversary of a mass shooting.

But I digress. A hate crime against one group, one religion, one political group, one group based on sexual preference, etc. is un American and our own brand of terrorism. That day one year ago, it was Jews who were the target of a gunman:

Mr. Leger was the most visibly wounded that morning of Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman killed 11 Jews and wounded other worshipers and police officers at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue building in Squirrel Hill. Among the dead were members of all three congregations sharing the building — New Light, Tree of Life and Mr. Leger’s own Dor Hadash.

The victims were Tree of Life members Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, husband and wife Sylvan Simon, 86, and Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg, Joyce Fineberg, 75, of Oakland, Irving Younger, 69, of Mount Washington, brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill and David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill; New Light Congregation members Melvin Wax, 87, of Squirrel Hill, Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross; and Congregation Dor Hadash member Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood.

There were several memorials in Duluth after this shooting- one outdoors with the community and a bell ringing naming each victim. The other took place a few days later at our local synagogue with an interdenominational service in the small space crammed with community members and leaders. Both were touching reminders of how the Jewish community is affected by hate and threats to their existence.

The shooter used the weapon of choice for mass shootings- an AR-15, was anti-Semitic and had posted on a social media site about his hate for Jews. From this entry in Wikipedia:

The immediate rise in the months of August to October was connected to the 2018 US midterm elections,[35] with a similar rise having occurred during the 2016 US election,[30] with the midterms being a “rallying point” for far-right extremists to organize efforts to spread antisemitism among the populace online.[31] The intervening years between 2016 and 2018 saw rising indicators of antisemitism in American public life, including a 57% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2017[33][32] in context of rising hate crimes against other groups including Muslims and African Americans as reported by the FBI,[33] a wave of vandalizations of hundreds of Jewish gravestones in Pennsylvania and Missouri,[31] and a doubling of antisemitic incidents on university campuses.[34] In 2017, the widely publicized Charlottesville riots featured Nazi symbolssalutes, and the slogan “Blood and Soil“,[34] amid explicit and implicitly racist and antisemitic rhetoric. Online, the reports found a large proportion of the antisemitic material was spread through the medium of conspiracy theories concerning wealthy Jewish individuals including billionaire George Soros, with Columbia University’s Jon Albright claiming these represented the “worst sample” of all the hate speech he had seen on Instagram.[30]

Do I have to remind my readers that the 2020 election is about one year away? Do I have to remind my readers that our very own President engages in the language of hate and violence in general and demeans his opponents, the media, anyone who disagrees with him, calling them names and intimating that violence might just be OK? And so, some of his followers actually may take action. Pray for a peaceful and safe election.

One such recent example came from a major league baseball umpire – one of Trump’s followers, who made a threat on social media about using his gun to shoot people if Trump should be impeached:

Drake posted this message to Twitter on Tuesday: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020”

Drake later deleted the post.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Drake apologized to victims of gun violence, fellow umpires and his family, and acknowledged he had caused a controversy for MLB.

His apology seemed insincere to me. It’s too late once those words have been written. We understand exactly what he meant. An AR-15 is the weapon of choice for mass shooters. He just may have done this had he not been called out publicly and he should be watched closely just in case. Now he has tainted his own career and reputation and also his own family and the umpires’ league.

This- all because of hate of others. This- all because we have no common sense when it comes to restricting the sale of assault rifles or checking to make sure that everyone can pass a background check. This- America the violent.

And of course, there was another mass shooting last night at a party to celebrate the homecoming at Texas A&M. “Only” 2 are dead but 12 injured. Good grief. Young adults and teens can’t celebrate parties without gunfire and death? From the article:

Authorities believe the shooter may have been targeting just one person at the party of about 750 people outside Greenville, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of a satellite campus of the Texas A&M University System, and that others may have been shot at random, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said. Authorities were still looking for the suspect, Meeks said, and had not yet identified him.

This happens far too often as it did in my sister’s shooting- one person was the target but often others are also shot just because they happened to be there and because it can be done so easily with guns as the weapon.

Today we remember the victims of one hate crime. Others followed including the shooting at Poway Synagogue in April of 2019 leaving one dead and three injured. Take a guess at the weapon used. If you guessed an AR-15 you are right.

And this, dear readers, is why many of us want an assault weapons ban. It is getting harder and harder to defend the use of these types of guns for any purpose other than killing many people at a time.

I will leave you with this- we are better than this. It is in our hands to stop the carnage. So let’s do something about this and demand that our leaders do the same. I don’t know how many more will be killed before we get this right and neither do you. It can and does happen anywhere.

Hate crimes are on the rise. Domestic terrorist shootings are on the rise:

It’s time to dismantle the artificial legal wall between domestic and international terrorism. Violent ideology that’s headed toward violent action and facilitated by websites, blogs, chat rooms, or other forums needs to be addressed regardless of its origins in racism, hate, religion and left or right-wing extremism. Let’s have one law that treats all violent ideologies the same and makes acting on those ideologies a crime.

This is the United States of America. We can’t let this continue as is. What is happening to our country? Please join me in doing everything you can do to stop and prevent hate crimes, domestic terrorism, domestic shootings, suicides, “accidental” shootings that occur in large numbers in America.

And remember the victims and survivors on this mournful day of remembrance. Say their names. None of them or their families and the community will ever be the same.

Let’s build a wall against gun violence

I say it’s time for a wall. This wall would be an invisible wall around our kids, our schools, work places, in homes, and everywhere people are shot. It should be around people like the Coast Guard member who is a right wing extremist ready to kill as many Americans as possible– but just liberal media and lawmakers. The wall in this case would stop him from shooting people by making sure he doesn’t have guns. From the story:

A 49-year-old Coast Guard lieutenant charged with stockpiling weapons and drugs is being described as a “domestic terrorist” who was planning “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors say Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-described white nationalist living in Silver Spring, Md., was amassing firearms since at least 2017, while cultivating plans to launch a widespread attack on prominent Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several high-profile television anchors from MSNBC and CNN.

There are hardly words for this kind of thinking. And where was our President, the one who actually has promoted violence at his rallies and who demeans people and attacks the media and liberal lawmakers? What was his statement condemning this?

Would he have commented if the terrorist was targeting him, or Mitch McConnell or Rush Limbaugh? This is a heinous domestic act of terrorism in the works and he says nothing? He wants to build his wall to keep out all of those illegal immigrants who are committing crimes, raping women, shooting people and are generally worse people than our citizens.

We need a wall to keep domestic terrorists from acts of violence against innocent Americans who they hate for whatever reason. But when your own President is encouraging this, perhaps we need a wall around him. We need a wall around his tweets. We need a wall around his angry fallacious nonsensical comments in short segments at cabinet meetings or on the White House Lawn on his way to a rally where he ramps up fear and paranoia.

We need a wall around our current gun culture which promotes the owning and carrying guns by everyone. We need a wall to keep the corporate gun lobby from spewing lies about current legislation before Congress. For example, H.R. 8 which will require background checks on all gun sales has an exception for family member transfers of firearms. Nonetheless, the message coming from pro gun lobby Congress members is the opposite.. They tell us in meetings ( and yes, they have done this) that their father will have to go to jail if he gives his guns to his son. NO. WRONG. This is a myth. But they believe it. We tell them otherwise to set the record straight to break through the wall of ignorance and false interpretations.

Facts matter. They are stubborn things. But in order to change things to get common sense legislation passed in this country and my state, we must get above, over, under and around the wall stopping gun safety reform.

Do we want to save lives or not? That is the question.

The answer is education, changing the conversation, changing the culture and changing the laws. Of course it also means changing our Congress members if they hide behind the wall of power, influence and money of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby.

Yes. We need a wall. It will not be the ridiculous wall that the President envisions and has promised his base. That wall may never happen anyway because of the insistence of our President on avoiding the legal way to get funding for his vanity project. Going around Congress to declare a national emergency was a power grab of epic proportions not seen before.

And yes, it has been mentioned that a Democratic President could declare a national gun violence emergency and start passing laws to make sure we are all safer. Or, God forbid, take guns away from dangerous and prohibited people. The right wing media is already all a twitter with any mention of this idea.

The NRA is sort of like the President in that way. They have grabbed power through lies over decades and fomented myths that got traction until the majority started seeing through them and insisted on the truth. After the Parkland shooting, the students showed us the way to challenge these common misperceptions and how to speak more boldly. And that is what it will take to break through the wall.

Next week the Democratic led House will vote on H.R. 8 and it will pass. The Republican led Senate will be afraid of the wall of myths and influence to do the right thing. They keep their power by allowing themselves to be influenced by a corrupt organization allegedly in concert with the Russians to get Trump elected President.

They will stand behind their wall of ignorance and spineless allegiance to the extremists who demand their support.

It’s time to build a wall around our communities to keep innocent children and adults from being shot- just because. Easy access to guns is the wall of tragedy and violence that has left families bereft and dealing with life long trauma. It’s time to tear down the wall of influence of the corporate gun lobby and the extreme philosophy that took over too many in Congress in the last few decades.

We have memorial walls for military victims. We build walls in memory of other victims. We have walls of flowers and crosses after mass shootings. Some believe we should have a national memorial wall to gun violence victims. There are certainly enough of them to deserve a very long wall- longer than the VietNam wall since more have died from bullets since 1968 than in all American wars in total.

Walls keep people out and they keep people in, depending on the situation. Which do we want?

Change will start next week. It’s way past time but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

We are the majority. We are united against gun violence. We want common sense. We want public health and safety. We want gun safety reform. We want the truth. We want the facts. We want to prevent and reduce gun violence.