After ramping up hateful rhetoric against any and all perceived opponents, and coddling and downplaying the words and actions of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, Donald Trump and the Republicans will now try to distance themselves from the climate of anger and violence they have spawned, the most recent manifestation of it being the vicious murder of 11 people and the injuring of six others at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh by a neo-Nazi who, during the rampage, was saying pretty much the same words as the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville.
And this was on top of the actions of the person, now deservedly known by the name of the MAGAbomber, who sent out mail bombs to people perceived as enemies of Trump, and the white supremacist who targeted and killed two black people at a grocery store in Louisville while saying that “whites don’t kill whites”.
In his effort to downplay his major role in creating this ugly climate, Trump has labeled the Pittsburgh shooting as an “evil anti-Semitic act”, which it is, and has vaguely promised to visit the city but that does not excuse his culpability and that of the Republican party, and some of the leadership of the synagogue and the Jewish community in Pittsburgh are telling him so in no uncertain terms.
A former president of the synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 people were murdered on Saturday has said Donald Trump would not be welcome in the city and labelled the president a “purveyor of hate speech”.
Lynette Lederman, of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, told CNN on Monday she would rely on local political leadership in the aftermath of the mass shooting and did not want the president to visit the city.
“We have people who stand by us, who believe in values – not just Jewish – but believe in values, and those are not the values of this president and I do not welcome him to Pittsburgh,” she said.
The comments followed an open letter signed by a coalition of local Jewish leaders and published by the Pittsburgh chapter of Bend The Arc, a progressive advocacy group, that also called for the president to avoid the city.
“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism,” the letter states.
“We are seeing an environment in which antisemitism has moved from the margins to the mainstream as political candidates and people in public life literally repeat the rhetoric of white supremacists,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL chief executive, told ABC News on Sunday.
However the rabbi of the synagogue Jeffrey Myers has said that he would welcome the president’s visit.
“I don’t really foist blame upon any person,” Myers said. “Hate does not know religion, race, creed political party – it’s not a political issue in any way shape or form. Hate does not know any of those things, it exists in all people.”
That kind of blanket statement is what enables politicians use to escape responsibility for any specific act. Of course hate appears everywhere. But specific acts of hate are driven by specific people for specific reasons using specific means, and ignoring that specificity prevents us from effectively combating them, and ends up with useless generic calls for ‘thoughts and prayers’.
Currently the US has a very specific and dangerous climate of rising white supremacism and neo-Nazism that must be addressed. It is of no help to equate acts enabled by that climate to be put in the same basket as acts of hate due to the random acts of individuals prompted by localized causes.