Acts of Violence Are on the Rise, Everywhere
A new year. A new decade. An increasing danger.
Is the clear societal message that we need to arm ourselves against hate crime?
As a society, we seem unable to stop hate or hating lunatics.
We are uncertain of safety in schools, movie theaters, churches, restaurants or our own homes. Our failures as a society to come together make armed violence the new line of no return.
Past is Prologue
Right up to the end of 2019, 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;
- Burning of black churches and Muslim mosques;
- Street violence involving markets, houses of worship or community centers; and,
- More wrongly conceived 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.
Bad Guy, Good Guy
But American reaction is the same. 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. Mayors and governors can preach all they want, but they cannot act until there is an incident. Meanwhile, more and more imams, pastors, rabbis and lobbyists are acknowledging that more armed guards and volunteers are needed.
When the hate is focused against an identifiable ethnic group, we call these incidents domestic terrorism. But that doesn’t stop attacks. Nor does the label limit the dangerous widening of American targets including abortion clinics. Threatening language emanating from political rallies gets louder.
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 fueling Donald Trump’s campaigning, for sure. But such antipathy is infecting France, Germany and more.
It’s not enough suddenly to declare a war over political correctness involving saying, “Merry Christmas.” Instead, supporters push more hot-headedly to insist that everyone say it. They shrug off growing alienation from organized religion, the rapid and widening secularization of all holidays and the giant ethnic mixing bowl that makes up America.
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 divisive 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 toward 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. Post-racialism should be a national goal rather than the butt of campaign jokes at raucous political rallies.
My grandchildren should not be worrying about their ethnic identity. This should not be a time to fear expressing thoughts about reaching out to immigrants. Preserving women’s health rights or linking ethnicity and economic possibility should not be disputed.
We all share responsibility for this situation, starting with a president whose words have enabled hate talk and action. Yet, shamefully, he sees no link to his own words and deeds.
This week alone, Orthodox Jewish activists blame New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for somehow not being able to forecast bedlam. A lunatic attacked a man on a Brooklyn street and rabbi’s home outside of the city.
The activists attacked de Blasio. But these aggressive pitches ignore a trend. When the particular Orthodox sect known as Hasidim moves into areas around Monsey, N.Y., site of the second knife attack, they come in en masse to displace others and establish sole residency.
As it happens, that seems to have little to do with the motives of a mentally deranged knifer. News reports said victims fought to stop an attacker who seriously wounded five before fleeing.
The volunteer congregational guard in that Texas church didn’t wait more than six seconds before killing a church attacker who slayed two people. America is calling the gun-carrying congregant a hero.
Likewise, schoolteachers in some areas are carrying guns. People in Texas bars are packing heat. 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?
Featured image: Members of far-right groups at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017. (Source: Flickr/Anthony Crider)