Friday, November 2, 2018

In Harm's Way

I've never understood why people don't think it can happen here. Sooner or later, it is going to happen here.

If here is my neighborhood, then last Saturday, it very much did. Evil made a stop in Pittsburgh on its never-ending tour. It was brought to us by the same combination of psychotic episodes and violent rhetoric as the rest. A man who thought the world was out to get him, egged on by others with a similar mindset and a President who derives power from convincing America to be scared silly by everybody that doesn't look like them.

If that seems unnecessarily political and unfair to you, you should look into their respective twitter accounts. The language of the President and the language used by the shooter are almost identical. Both warn of "invasions" by "those people" and are not in the least subtle that they have to be "stopped." The only difference is in which group is being targeted. But you can't pick and choose when you are unleashing the forces of fear and death. Those don't respect boundaries around the people you think will vote for you. You might recall that those Nazis in Charlotte were chanting that "Jews will not replace us." The "good people," you know.

The shooter did go the President one better, however. He said, in his last tweet that he was "tired of watching my people get slaughtered. I'm going in," he said.

Slaughtered? What in the ever living hell does he mean? Who is slaughtering whom here?

This is the language of violence. It is always convincing itself that it is actually the target of those other people, and that it is just trying to protect itself. And then somehow six million Jews wind up dead because they were supposedly the aggressors. Those Nazis were just trying to defend themselves from a vast world conspiracy.


The problem is, you can't argue with fear. If you try to tell it is hasn't got a freaking clue it just assumes you are the enemy. Part of the problem. You don't get it, it says venomously. But you the end--when we shoot all of you.

After an incident of mass killing people are understandably worried. But then the fear farmers fan the flames: It wasn't Jews that guy was after (even though he said it was) any more than that fellow who shot up a church full of Black people was after African Americans (even though he said exactly that). No, you and me, Joe and Jill White Anglo-Saxon Protestant better be really worried. Worried enough to let our civil rights vanish as fast as they can. Also, buy all the assault rifles you can, before some Democrat takes them all away.

Tree of Life Synagogue is about two blocks from the church where I play. Folks here are talking about locking doors, getting more's already a challenge for a new person to find their way in to the building (most churches have about a dozen, and only one of them is unlocked), and to be welcomed. Now it's going to require a degree in it.

There is, of course, no guarantee that some Sunday morning we won't all be mowed down during a service--even Joe Protestant, though that is a lot less likely if you are not a minority or black or a non-Christian group, much as fear-mongers like to blur the lines so they can spread fear everywhere. About the only thing that is guaranteed is that some people will use that as an excuse to stoke more fear and tell us the solution is to arm ourselves all the more and trust each other all the less. It will seem reasonable to some, and an absolute necessity to others. After all, those folks who stockpiled all the weapons out of fear the government was going to get them did end up dead in the end, didn't they? It would never occur to them that the only reason the government was even concerned about them in the first place was because of their arsenal. People of Fear never consider the possibility that they might themselves seem a threat to others, so full are they of their own fear that other people are out to get them. What is really bizarre is the size of that threat. It can be people carrying signs, or kneeling, or being Jewish (or black, or gay, or left-handed, or liberal). And somehow, the way to deal with that threat is with lead bullets. The white male thinks he is under assault in America, so he goes and buys an assault rifle.

There doesn't seem to be anything one can do about that. You can't laugh at fear--it thinks everybody is doing that already (they're all laughing at us!) and it just furthers their sense of persecution. You can't argue with it. It just thinks you are too stupid to know what's really going on. And you can't acknowledge it: it just gets bigger and bolder. The least you can do is not encourage it. But in any case,  it does its thing in our midst, and some of us, living with the ever-present possibility of getting shot, live our lives anyway, trying to do what is right and good, not turning to the right or to the left,  not giving in. And if we die, we die. I've been seeing this attitude everywhere lately, this goodness and mercy that some people feel doesn't exist because it doesn't fit their fear. Feeling persecuted all the time does shrink your perspective. It doesn't help your reasoning powers, either. I still recall an online comment from one guy to the effect that soon it was going to be illegal to be a white male in this country. I wonder which mostly white, male legislature he thought was going to pass such a law.

There were vigils in Squirrel Hill last weekend, and a protest. At the protest there were signs from every community that has been abused by our current leader. And there were words in support of all of them. The Jewish community doesn't stand alone here. This weekend everyone is invited to Synagogue. Everybody, united.

It is strange how many people think of division: just as the people with the signs are often seen as a bigger threat than the people with the guns, the ones using words like "invasion" and "infestation" to describe people are supposed to be the uniters and the people who don't find this bullying acceptable are the dividers.

Meanwhile, in our neighborhood, people who are "supposed to" be enemies are coming together. The Muslim community was first in line to donate to the relief fund for the Jewish community. (They know that this week it was your people; next week it may be ours). Every day, usually in small ways, people are not only polite to each other, they are looking out for each other. It seems like an alternate reality. Something you'd never believe unless you were a part of it. It is as if there are two kingdoms, filled with very different citizens, defined by who they love and who they hate, occupying the same space, but living two very different realities. They bump into each other on the street, but they are going in opposite directions.

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