I was working on my computer when my husband walked into my study and said, “Something terrible has happened.”
“In Israel or in London?” I said, my breathing stopping, for my sister’s family lives in Israel and my daughter’s in London.
“No,” he said, “in Pittsburg.”
The details emerged quickly. An armed gunman burst into a Synagogue, killed 11 people and wounded several more. Six minutes before the act, the man who branded Jews as “the children of Satan,” posted on his Facebook, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered… I’m going in.”
“You know,” I said to my husband, “I’m starting to feel as if we’re reliving 1932 in Germany all over again. The Kristallnacht has not happened, yet, but it is coming.
He just hugged me. “I’m so sorry.”
Next day, we went to a vigil in honor of the victims. Before we left, I said to my non-Jewish husband, “Maybe I should go alone. You never know what may happen. You have children and grandchildren. You have responsibilities to them, too. I don’t want to put you in harm’s way.” “Nonsense,” he said, and we went together.
The crowd, assembled on the lawn of a small city park, wasn’t very big – mostly Jews of our Midwestern college town, but others as well. The ceremony was emotional and sad. People spoke of their feelings, the need for all good people to unite in the face of evil, about the Holocaust, and all the other things people say every time a mass shooting takes place. Then a rabbi read Psalm 23:
1 The Lord is my shepherd
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
His words struck me. Was he talking about a different event? Did he even notice how ill-suited his words were? The slaughtered were in the Lord’s temple named the Tree of Life, of all things!
“They comfort me?” When? At the moment of death? As they comforted those six million Jews killed during the Holocaust? What comfort…
Of course, nothing was the rabbi’s fault. He did what he was taught to do – pray and read passages, which, hopefully, gave solace to some. To me, they triggered anger. “I fear no evil”? Really? I do. And I’m sure I am not the only one! He would have done better to just read the names and the ages of the victims, which ranged from 54 to 97–people who could be no threat to anyone. But, again, that was my anger talking.
Many said that what’s been happening in the last two years is Trump’s fault–that he created this ugly and hateful wave. Yet I also heard another voice. Trump didn’t create the wave. He’s just riding it.
I agree with that. Like Pandora who released evil spirits into the world, Trump didn’t create greed, hatred and other human ugliness. They have been smoldering for a long time. He just released them, he gave them a voice. The scary part is that now that they are out, it will be very hard to reverse this evil wave. (In fact, this wave may, one day, crush Trump himself. But, as a Russian colloquial expression has it, “A person who behaves like a dog deserves to die like a dog.”)
And if we fail to stop the wave, it may crush us, too. Look at the people at Trump’s rallies. Don’t they look – and sound – like German Nazis? Look at their youth. Don’t they remind you of Hitlerjugend? And their women? Can you picture them as capos in a concentration camp? Think I’m exaggerating? Take another look! Listen to how angry they are!
Oh, I see, you think you’re not in danger because you’re not a black or a Jew, or a Mexican or gay. Don’t kid yourself. Today it’s not about you. But tomorrow it could be. Tomorrow, they may come after the old (Republicans have been talking about getting rid of social security for some time now), the Muslims, the mentally ill, the intellectuals, and other minorities. It will happen! Unless we stop them today.
And so, don’t just pray or turn off the news. Vote!
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
~~ Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved