My first wife, Renee Saroff Oliner, died of cancer at age 42 in 1995. She came from the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburg and her family were members of the Tree of Life Synagogue. I have attended Bar Mitzvahs for my nieces and nephews there as well as funerals, including Renee’s, who is buried in Pittsburgh with her parents and sister, Barbara.
This tragedy was a bit more personal because it also brought back memories of her life and extended family in Pittsburgh.
Years ago, I wrote a piece, Why Is This Hatred Different from All Other Hatreds, to explain the distinct hatred of anti-Semitism that led to the holocaust. I remain satisfied with this explanation on a grand scale as the holocaust, but it does not apply to the lone gunman who killed 11 congregants on Shabbes at a bris.
It isn’t different.
There is no doubt he was motivated by anti-Semitism, but how is it different from the racist motivated shooting of 9 worshippers at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015? Was the shooting that killed 26 worshippers and wounded 20 more at The First Baptist Church in Southerland, Texas in 2017 any less tragic because it was motivated by just hate without the racist or anti-Semitic booster?
Are the school shootings any less tragic? Sandy Hook? Parkland?
The gun rights debate will continue, and I do not oppose laws that keep guns from the hands of people capable of committing such acts, including the ones already on the books. But the reality is that there will be tradeoffs in one form or another. Even if we lean towards the mental health angle, profiling and acting on it will transgress rights we value highly.
The rhetoric is problematic. There are sociopaths on the edge and reckless statements and exaggerations can push some of them over the edge. Donald Trump’s statements can push a disgruntled leftist or an extreme follower from the right to an extreme act. So can the confrontational calls from Maxine Waters, Cory Booker and Eric Holder. Attacking public officials in public spaces abandons any hope of civility. The tone of the Resistance is often demonic.
Hate does not need a reason, it only needs an excuse. If you believe Republicans are an existential threat to mankind go gun down a few Congressmen at a ball game. If you think Democrats are a threat, send pipe bombs in the mail to a dozen Democrats.
If you think Jews are the problem gun them down in their synagogue.
We can speak of the decay of the mediating institutions that Alexis de Tocqueville found to be the glue of our democracy. De Tocqueville also noted that when we are all equal, we are equally weak. We can address the violence in our culture, the poison of social media, the terror of social isolation.
It is not a problem of poverty, inequality, or economics.
AI and surveillance technology can help, but there are serious questions we must face about their use.
I have little patience for hope and prayer. It may help you cope, but it won’t solve the problem. Hope is not a strategy.
Start with more and better security. Advance to identifying and profiling psychopaths. Monitor them. This will not be cheap.
Admit this is challenging and stop the partisan blaming and straw men. Virtue signaling is cheap. Real solutions to complicated problems are not.