A new year, a new decade: Is the clear societal message that we need to arm ourselves against hate crimes because as a society, we can’t stop hate or hating lunatics?
It feels like quite a conclusion that we cannot be assured of safety in schools, movie theaters, churches, restaurants or our own homes. It suggests that it is exactly as a result of our failures as a society to come together—or to celebrate our diversity—that we have reached the point where armed violence is now the new line of no return.
This last year, through the last week, we saw a rising number of reported violent crimes against synagogues and attacks on particularly recognizable Orthodox Jews, continuing white church shootings in Texas, beatings of gays, the burning of black churches and Muslim mosques, and street violence involving markets, houses of worship or community centers, and individuals as identifying as other than white majority American. That doesn’t even account for rising numbers of wrongly aimed police attacks on black citizens.
We’re looking at a future where the insistence on being right is being backed up by bullets.
Each case is unique, of course, with attackers claiming different rationales – or none. But what is the same is the American reaction; We’re supposed to get weapons to protect ourselves. It’s the National Rifle Association motto gone wild: The only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy (trained) with a gun.
We’ve proved over and over that significant gun control is beyond us.
Let’s face it, city mayors and state governors can preach all they want, but they cannot act until there has been an incident. Meanwhile, more and more imams, pastors, rabbis and aggressive lobbyists for each minority group, in turn, are acknowledging that more armed guards and volunteers are needed to protect against seemingly random attacks.
When the hate is focused against an identifiable ethnic group, increasingly, if reluctantly, the advance is that we now call these incidents domestic terrorism. But that doesn’t stop them. Nor is the dangerous widening of American targets, that now include the dwindling number of abortion clinics and staffers, and the threatening language emanating from political rallies.
I fear that we’re looking at a future where the insistence on being right is being backed up by bullets. Rather than committing to diminish bullying, we’re widening our support for it; rather than insisting on reasoning, we’re yelling louder and starting to defend ourselves – and celebrating the successes – with weapons.
There is a political, public affairs message underlying all of this, of course. There are causes behind the rise of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-black, anti-immigrant beliefs. That fear of the Other and of the loss of American white, Christian homogeneity is the juice of Donald Trump’s campaigning, for sure, but it is being reflected in France, Germany, and across the globe.
It’s not enough, suddenly to declare there is a war on over political correctness involving saying “Merry Christmas”; instead, there is a need to push more violently to insist that everyone say it, even in the face of growing alienation from organized religion, or the rapid and widened secularization of all holidays, or the giant ethnic mixing bowl that makes up America.
And, as with Jews and support for the right-leaning government in Israel, the message gets confused and mixed up among declared and assigned ethnicities, traits and beliefs, actions by foreign governments thought to be directing American thinking, perceived dividing income and class issues, and a race-centric fear that Someone is coming to take away jobs, homes, possibilities – facts notwithstanding.
All this hate is coming alive as the nation heads more rapidly and without halt towards a minority-majority, a time when whites will be a minority as well, with no racial majority.
It is a time that suggests we should be forming more bridges, not attacking one another when “post-racialism” actually should be a national goal, rather than the butt of campaign jokes at raucous political rallies.
This was not supposed to be a time in which my grandchildren should be worried about their ethnic identity, or, for that matter, about expressing thoughts about reaching out to immigrants or to preserving women’s health rights or to be linking ethnicity and economic possibility.
We all share responsibility for this situation, starting with a president whose words have enabled hate talk and action possible. Yet, shamefully, he sees no link to his own words and deeds.
This week alone, aggressive Orthodox Jewish activists likewise blame New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has dispatched more street police, for somehow not being able to know ahead of time when some lunatic might attack a man in the street in Brooklyn—or a rabbi’s home outside of the city. These aggressive pitches ignore a trend that when the particular Orthodox known as Hasidim move into areas around Monsey, N.Y., site of the knife attack, that they are doing so en masse to displace others and become its sole residents. As it happens, that seems to have little to do with the motives of a mentally deranged knifer. After the initial reports, the news was that the victims fought to stop an attacker who still managed to seriously wound five before fleeing.
The volunteer congregational guard in that Texas church didn’t wait more than six seconds before plugging a church attacker who had started shooting congregants. America is calling him a hero.
Likewise, school teachers in some areas are now carrying, people in Texas bars are packing, and they’re all looking at the rest of us as if we’re nuts.
Something is seriously wrong and going in the wrong direction.
Are we going to address it?