‘Never again!’ has become ‘Ever again!’
That historical vow “Never again!” might as well be “Ever again!”
After the mass killings of Jews during Adolf Hitler’s rampage of terror during World War II, a cry was heard by good people ‘round the world: “Never again!”
But since then, butchery of people, including Jews, has happened again and again. Ever again.
And now, vicious anti-semitism has again reared its ugly, hateful head in the United States – this land of immigrants, of freedom, of opportunities.
On Oct. 27, a vicious hater armed with an assault-style rifle and three handguns entered the Tree of Life synagogue in a Pittsburgh neighborhood and murdered 11 people, wounding six others, including four police officers – one of them critically. It’s the worst – and sadly just the latest – murderous assault on Jewish people in this nation.
In a grim irony, the synagogue is in the same neighborhood where Fred Rogers lived – he of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame, that children’s TV series that taught the values of kindness, love, respect, diversity and tolerance.
Throughout history, Jewish people were brutalized. In Russia and Eastern Europe, there were organized massacres called “pogroms” of entire Jewish villages – men, women and children driven out, shot, hung, burned, raped, buried alive.
Jews have long been scapegoats, especially in medieval Europe when desperate people were frantic to find someone, some group of people, to blame for their problems and fears. And it was often the Jews who were viewed with suspicion as “the not-us others.” An escalating process of hatred (demonization of the “other”) led to the mass murders.
The shooter in Pittsburgh did the same thing. Over time, his thinking became hideously warped as he gullibly, willingly soaked up stereotypes, lies, slanders, irrational fears and threats all aimed at Jewish people. Much of the twisted rot he absorbed through “social media,” which in his case, should best be called “anti-social” media, especially a chat service called “Gab” that allows for anything-goes hate posts.
The murderer’s mind was warped by what he came to be convinced were “facts” – that Jews are out to “slaughter” the “good” Americans, that the so-called caravan from Central America is a “mob” of killers and terrorists (paid by a Jewish organization) to invade and wreak havoc against us.
What is frightening about that man’s warped version of “facts” is he is not alone among so many who have come to prefer outrageous lies to provable facts. Through Internet interactions with others, he, like many others who would ordinarily be wrong-headed loners, suddenly find strength and validation via other warped minds, other haters. That social-media validation-empowerment has long been true of mass killers, including school shooters. And it is true of the man who mailed pipe bombs to two former presidents and others.
The Pittsburgh killer yelled “All Jews must die” before he began blasting them to death, his AR-15 assault slugs ripping large holes in his victims, most of them elderly worshippers.
And, of course, efforts to strengthen gun safety will once again be given lip service, then forgotten. Until next time. Ever again. And, of course, Trump supporters will twist themselves into knots denying his verbal attacks and despicable incitements at his rallies are not contributing to this growing climate of hatred.
Anne Frank was the Jewish teenager who was hauled out of Amsterdam by Nazis after hiding out for two years in an attic with her family. They were sent to concentration camps, along with other Jews and “undesirables” as decreed by the “purist” white “Aryan” Nazis. Anne died of typhus.
While hiding in the attic, filled with youthful hopes but riddled with anxieties, Anne wrote a daily diary, which later became famous worldwide. The following quote from that diary, brimming with innocence and optimism, is enough to break the stoniest heart. Her words should haunt and hound every one of us who truly want “Ever again!” to become “Never again!”
“In spite of everything,” Anne wrote, “I still believe people are really good at heart.”