Synagogue Shooting: Playing Politics Ignores Real Criminal
On October 27, 2018, the worst Anti-Semitic shooting in American history rocked our country. A lone gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania wielding an AR-15 rifle and three Glock handguns, killed down eleven and injured six more before surrendering to police. Our nation is now left reeling, picking up the pieces in an attempt to find who or what is to blame for such a display of unbridled hatred.
I’ll tell you who is to blame: Robert Browers, the white supremacist responsible for the shooting. It shouldn’t be difficult to pinpoint, yet I question if people recognize that when articles like the Washington Post’s “How Much Responsibility Does Trump Bear for the Synagogue Shooting in Pittsburgh?” tastelessly claim mere days after the shooting that Trump’s rhetoric helped to cause the tragedy. I say it every time the left blames the right or the right blames the left for the acts of a terrorist: it is absurd to suggest that a politician incited an act of violence unless that politician was physically caught inciting that act of violence. It may seem redundant to say, but I understand the idea of terrorists acting on their own accord is an unpopular one. For many, there needs to be someone to blame. And because it’s convenient, political enemies will do.
Imagine if Bernie Sanders’ rhetoric was held to account, even partially, for the actions of the 2017 Congressional Baseball shooter who nearly shot to death Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. No one save for the most fringe right-wing demagogues blamed Sanders for the acts of that lunatic – even after they tried to pin him by citing the shooter’s social media account, fraught with pro-Sanders slogans, and the fact that the shooter shouted popular democratic-socialist slogans while shooting Republicans.
Even further, I hear the blame of this shooting shifted to the AR-15, or to a lack of gun control in the United States. In fact, Barack Obama tweeted only six hours after the shooting “We grieve for the Americans murdered in Pittsburgh… And we have to stop making it so easy for those who want to harm the innocent to get their hands on a gun.” This tweet sent a clear message: the cause of this attack was a gun. The cause of this attack was not a gun. It was a white supremacist who hates Jewish people carrying out his hatred in violence against them. Anti-Semitism is as old as the Jewish people. Just as any other discrimination targeting any other people, it far predates anything modern. I would not blame a weapon – an inanimate object – for the acts of an evil man driven by hatred. Weapons cannot do evil, nor can they fuel hatred.
I blame the terrorist for killing these people, and I grit my teeth at our society for failing to educate him of the inherent equality of every person; the belief for which this country was founded. And, while I don’t side with the president on many things, I think he chose the right thing to say in his Tweet on that fateful day: “This evil Anti-Semitic attack is an assault on humanity. It will take all of us working together to extract the poison of Anti-Semitism from our world. We must unite to conquer hate.” Notice the lack of policy prescription or blame-shifting. It’s just a statement on what we, as a society, can and cannot accept. It’s my belief that once enough people choose the evil to blame, and not the tools with which it was enacted, it will be rejected wholly, and tragedy like this will seldom befall our society.