Pittsburgh: Three days later

10.30.18

Here I am, three days later, and still angry. Scared. Terrified, in fact.

But I realize, I’m not terrified at the notion that a madman might come shoot up a synagogue, mosque, church, school, community centre. Even though all these things have happened and keep happening. Terrorism is still — thankfully — relatively rare. And living our lives in fear of random violence makes no sense. We might as well lock ourselves indoors and never cross the street again, since the chances of getting hit by a car are many, many times higher.

No, it’s not the threat of random violence, as horrible as it is, that has me afraid, angry and raging at the world. It’s the way the world has reacted to it. Is reacting to it.

We’ve seen this far too many times before. After Charlottesville. After Pulse in Orlando. After the Quebec City mosque shooting. After Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, Charleston, Sutherland Springs… heck, even after the Polytecnique massacre. For a couple of days, there’s an outpouring of support, people send their condolences and change their profile pictures and tweet with solidarity hashtags and attend candlelight vigils. And say things like “never again”.

I used to let myself dare to hope that, in the aftermath of these tragedies, a tipping point would be reached where people might say “enough”… and something might actually change for the better. But I don’t hope for that anymore. Because I know better.

In the aftermath of the worst attack of Islamophobia in Quebec history, there was a collective outpouring of support and grief for the Muslim community. And yet, not even two years later, a bunch of xenophobic assholes in ridings where they’ve probably never met anyone from a religious minority went ahead and elected a government that campaigned on a platform of Islamophobia and race-baiting, that has promised to pass a law restricting religious symbols that would effectively ban freedom of religion for all minorities, and that claims to be doing it because “it’s what the majority wants”.

Two days after a gunman shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Trump is dialing up the anti-immigrant, anti-minority rhetoric. And last night, amidst a very moving show of unity in the Montreal Jewish Community, a speech referenced Trump and a not-insignificant part of the crowd applauded.

Applauded.

Let that sink in. Jews, here in Montreal, at a vigil to remember the victims of the worst antisemitic terrorist attack in US history. Applauding a president who has claimed he’s a “nationalist”, who says that neo-Nazis in Virginia are “very fine people”. Who has based his entire political career on vilifying the other, on dialing up hate rhetoric, on destroying the independent media, erasing minorities, and trampling on human rights. Who holds rallies, including one right after the shooting, that wouldn’t be out of place in 1930s Germany. (And yes, I am saying that deliberately. Even Mike Godwin, who coined the term “Godwin’s Law”, has publicly suspended it, claiming it doesn’t apply when we’re talking about ACTUAL Nazis.)

Even in the darkest days of the 1930s, I can’t imagine any scenario where a group of Jews in a German synagogue would’ve applauded Adolf Hitler.

There are midterm elections in the United States next week. Americans claim to be reeling from this tragedy, as well as from a hate-motivated double-homicide in Kroger and an unprecedented mail bomb plot. And yet, polls suggest that they’re poised to re-elect a Republican House and Senate. And they justify it with nonsense they see on FOX News about how it’s not the president’s fault that this hate rhetoric has gotten so out of hand, and domestic terrorism doesn’t scare them but a caravan of desperate migrants from Honduras does.

Here in Canada, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is trying to unseat Justin Trudeau with similar tactics to what Trump is using down south. He’s attacking the media as “fake news”, attacking immigrants, attacking minorities, drumming up fear and division instead of inclusiveness and tolerance. And he may well win on that platform.

Then I look at the world. Brazil. Most of Europe.

And I look right here at home. At my friends and neighbours who say words like “solidarity” and yet are perfectly comfortable with a law that would fire teachers for wearing hijabs or kippot. Who can’t see the hypocrisy in wanting public holiday celebrations for Christian holidays, a cross in the National Assembly, and yet think that “religion should be private” for people who may not believe as they do. And who can’t make the connection between their xenophobia and the twisted hateful rhetoric that leads to tragedies like this one.

So no, I’m not scared because a madman shot up a synagogue. I’m scared because the world seems to be steadily marching towards fascism, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to stop it.

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