On October 27, 2018, another mass shooting occurred. This time, the shooting was at a synagogue in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, PA. The gunman took eleven innocent lives of those going to synagogue for prayer for the Jewish Sabbath.
The gunman — a white, 46 year old man named Robert Bowers — barged into the synagogue screaming anti-semitic epithets, including “All Jews must die!” He was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns and did not hesitate to shoot anyone he saw. His hateful rhetoric and beliefs was seen on a social media outlet called Gab, where he “called out” refugee rights groups, lambasted Jewish people, and remained critical of immigrants.
It would be great to think of him as a lone wolf, or one in a million, but he’s not. Dylann Roof, the man who shot and killed nine African American churchgoers in South Carolina, Omar Mateen, the man who shot and killed 49 people at the gay Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Nikolas Cruz, who shot and killed nineteen students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, and many others are not lone wolves. They are men acting off of the culture and atmosphere of the country, feeding off of the hateful rhetoric and toxic environment in the government, as well as their anger and distrust of certain groups of people.
Every mass murderer has a motive. The Pittsburgh shooter’s motive was his antisemitism. The Pulse Nightclub shooter’s motive was to kill individuals who perpetuated “Western morals”. The Charleston shooter’s motive was to kill African Americans. The Stoneman Douglas shooter was motivated to kill students in his school that he felt “did him wrong”. It’s no coincidence that racist, anti semitic, homophobic, and discriminatory mass shootings are occurring more and more often.
The United States has built up a toxic environment in which angry, white men feel empowered to express their hateful and discriminatory views. The political atmosphere today is similar to the one in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, an atmosphere seen in Apartheid South Africa, an atmosphere seen in our past in the United States. Each and every one of these time periods allowed people to express their hatred of certain groups verbally and physically: to pillage and destroy property, bomb churches and kill innocent people. And each these countries were led by leaders, usually in the executive branch, who actively incited hatred against minorities and inspired the supposedly “suppressed” white populations to show their superiority.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, and many other types of hatred have existed and always will, but it was in 2016 that it began to have a large presence. Hatred poured throughout the country, and with that, angry, hateful people like the shooters in Pittsburgh, Orlando, Charleston, and Parkland felt inspired by the president to express their hatred by murdering groups of people that they hate. Furthermore, continuous hateful rhetorics from the White House will not quell any mass shootings, but encourage more.
After the shooting, the President of the United States said that the shooting could have been prevented if there had been an armed guard. So, I assume this security guard is going to be a more effective deterrent than the three police officers who the Pittsburgh shooter was able to shoot before he was captured? A security guard, armed with a handgun, would have enough time to pull out his gun, switch off the safety, and then shoot a man who has his semi automatic gun already in position to shoot? It is simply not reasonable to fight fire with fire.
The next question isn’t if, but when. For Pittsburgh, our neighbor, the answer to that question is October 27, 2018. I hope that this tragic, anti-semitic, and completely preventable shooting will be enough to incite the masses to show their representatives that enough is enough. That we, the citizens of the United States, need comprehensive gun laws, limitations on who can purchase guns, comprehensive background checks, and the end of sales of dangerous weapons of mass murder. That we, the citizens of Philadelphia, never want to answer the question of “When?” and that we are sick of hateful rhetoric, especially from our president, that inspires and incites wicked people to commit equally horrible and wicked actions.
It’s crucial to realize this this could have happened anywhere, to anyone, and at any time. Blatant hatred is real and affects every community throughout the country. A crime against any group of people is a crime against the people of the United States of America.
Viktor Kagan (279)