Events in the United States this past week, have overshadowed anything else I had intended to write about today. One simply cannot ignore, not only the horror of these crimes, but also their serious and long- term implications. And for those who will say these are not matters of local interest or concern, I respectfully beg to differ. Most of these events took place within a day’s drive of where we live; if not on our door step, close enough to make us sit up and pay attention. There should be no disconnect here.
Within six days we witnessed three hate-crimes. The first barely caught public attention; two people shot and killed by a white man attempting to burst into a black Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The second, garnered a lot more attention as at least ten pipe bombs were mailed to politicians and news sources who had been under attack by President Donald Trump. The third was an assault on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where 11 people were slaughtered.
It has been interesting to watch as some people tried to trivialize these tragedies. In the case of the pipe bombs, conspiracy theories popped up, accusing Democrats of sending fake bombs to Trump targets to hurt Republican candidates in the-mid term election cycle. The truth is somewhat different. The accused perpetrator, now in custody, is a disciple of the Alt Right, a Nazi sympathiser and someone described by his former lawyer as a person who views Donald Trump as a ‘father figure’. As for the bombs, they were not fake. They were described by the FBI as poorly made but viable. It was a miracle that none were detonated.
Through all of this, President Donald Trump has stayed true to his character. He read all of the politically correct statements from the teleprompter, likely written by someone else. But the moment he went off script, which was very quickly, he blamed everyone but himself, most especially his political opponents and the media. Donald Trump, in his view, can do no wrong.
Once again, the truth is very different. Responsibility for hate and fear mongering begins at the top. To paraphrase one recent news commentary, when you incite and sanction hate, hate flourishes and when you condone and excuse acts of violence, violence follows.
Donald Trump has been a master of both. He refers to the media as the enemy of the people. He celebrates a politician who body slammed a reporter. He sees “good people on both sides” when referring to pro Nazi and white supremacist groups. He does not hesitate to refer to his perceived enemies using language that is racist or inflammatory. In simple terms, he is an enabler. In fact, sadly, he is the Enabler-in-Chief!
I found it shocking yesterday to hear the first public words out of President Trump’s mouth, when asked to comment on the Synagogue killings in Pittsburgh, were that it might not have happened if they had an armed guard inside their Temple. Once again, blame the other guy.
The horrific incident in Pittsburgh is particularly upsetting to me, because I know someone who could have been in that Temple. The son of friends of ours from Huntsville, married a Jewish girl and they are now both professors in Pittsburgh. We were at their wedding and see them most summers when they return to Huntsville. She was not at that service, but she could have been and that is a little too close to home for me.
Indeed, Canada is not immune from hate attacks similar to what we have witnessed in the United States. In not much more than a year there have been no less than five domestic acts of terror here, not the least of which were two horrific vehicle attacks in Toronto, resulting in multiple deaths. We forget too easily. This is not business as usual. This borders on an epidemic. Even the attack yesterday in Pittsburgh, has already had repercussions here, as former Federal Liberal leader Bob Rae, whose wife is Jewish, reports today, that his family has received “nasty, deeply anti-Semitic messages”.
It seems we are witnessing a cultural change in society, where public discourse by politicians and other leaders, is once again enabling expressions of bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance and extremism. What is happening in the United States is not just creeping in to Canada. In many respects it is already here
Instead of sticking our head in the sand, wouldn’t it be nice if we had the intestinal fortitude to do something about it?
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