Whistle long enough, dogs show up: Best synagogue shooting response? Weep. Mourn. Vote.

This was taken at my niece’s bat mitzvah. Mom (z”l) is on the left; Phyllis & Pat (the other granny) are next to her. Taken in 2009, but could have been taken yesterday at Tree of Life Synagogue, or any other congregation.

File yesterday under “Days when you’re glad your mother and aunts are dead.”

File yesterday under “This is why I grapple with knowing that I look and benefit from being white but don’t ever feel entirely white.”

File yesterday under “What part of their part in this do Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Chuck Grassley, Paul Ryan, Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller and the rest of the administration not see?”

File yesterday under “You can’t spend three years whistling and act surprised when the dogs actually show up.”

File yesterday under: “Thank you to the library system where I work for taking the possibility of an active shooter seriously enough to provide training that may minimize the danger to us and our patrons if we’re ever unlucky enough to be in that situation.”

Pittsburgh is the first time it’s happened to my community. Reading the news as I sat behind the reference desk yesterday, my first thoughts were of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the nine people killed by the white guy who got a take-out hamburger in jail because he told the police he was hungry. I thought of the six people killed in Oak Creek at the Sikh Temple by a white guy who did it because he thought Sikhs were Muslims.

This isn’t just about Jews, or black people, or people who wear turbans or hijabs or whose first words were in a language other than English.

President Dog Whistle mused that had there been armed guards in the synagogue, perhaps the shooter would have been stopped.

He is wrong.

Had there been sensible gun laws in this country, perhaps the shooter would have been stopped. But that would mean standing up to Dylan Roof, Rob Bowers and Wade Michael Pages’ enablers. By which I mean the National Rifle Association, whose bullets include large amounts of cash aimed at legislators for sale.

Newsflash to President Dog Whistle and those legislators: All the guns in the world will not kill what’s coming. Thanks to you, Dylan Roof, Rob Bowers and Wade Michael Page were able to carry out their attacks using real weapons. Cesar Sayet, Jr. heard the dog whistle and was empowered to build and mail bombs that would have killed postal workers as well as people who’ve stood up for their beliefs.

But you can’t kill reality, any more than you can stop the 7,000 people who have left dangerous situations in Central America to seek refuge in the land that provided it to so many of us – at the expense of those who were here first, and those brought here in chains.

The country is changing. It’s less white. It’s less Christian. People like President Dog Whistle and his ilk are doing everything they can to ensure that real power and the money that preserves it remains in the hands of people who look and sound and think the way they do and have done.

That’s why income inequality. That’s why voter suppression. That’s why unevenly applied drug laws.

Change is hard, but it doesn’t have to be bad. Banding together for the sake of our shared well-being is our best shot at ensuring any kind of future for ourselves and those who come after us.

Which is why voting on November 6this so important. If you can’t vote because:

  • you’re not old enough,
  • you’re on paper,
  • you’re not through the citizenship process,
  • your felony record says that even though you’ve paid your debt to society we’re going to keep punishing you…

then be an enabler. Make your voice count by making sure the people in your life who can cast votes, do cast votes.

The future will thank you.


The 11 people killed in Pittsburgh. May their memories be for a blessing:

• Joyce Fienberg, 75, Oakland neighborhood, Pittsburgh
• Richard Gottfried, 65, Ross Township
• Rose Mallinger, 97, Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Pittsburgh
• Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Edgewood Borough
• Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, brothers, Squirrel Hill
• Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, married, Wilkinsburg
• Daniel Stein, 71, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh
• Melvin Wax, 88, Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
• Irving Younger, 69, Mount Washington neighborhood, Pittsburgh

Out from under the bed, with a couple of books

So, Tuesday was Election Day and we all woke up the next morning here in the US either depressed beyond belief or jubilant. Neither one is a very healthy state to maintain over time.

Truth is, the world is kind of a scary place these days. What with beheadings making an unfortunate comeback, income inequality, climate change, the digital Third World (more on this sometime later) and other things, the underside of my bed is becoming a very attractive place to be. So what if you can build a Great Dane out of the dust that’s collected there? I just think of it as soft lining for my secret nest. But only one percenters can spend all their time hiding beneath their beds (and they’ve no reason, even though I’m sure even their underbed regions are plush and fabulous with real soft linings and not the imitation stuff made from excess pet hair). I do not have that luxury.

Which might explain why I was particularly drawn to two recently published books.

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets (Arsenal)” is a graphic young adult novel originally published in French with a story by Hubert (English translation by David Homel) and illustrations (no translation needed) by Marie Caillou.

I’d actually never read one of these before. It’s more a short story than novel, the tale of a teenage boy for whom school and home are both equally unpleasant. The smart-and-awkward combo plate is generally a one-way ticket to high school pariah-land. Toss coming to terms with being gay into the mix and you’ve got a whole new level of angst. Adrian is handling it pretty well until Jeremy, the most popular boy in school, turns out to have his own secret. Jeremy also has a girlfriend, who doesn’t take kindly to idea of losing – or sharing – him. Caillou’s drawings are a worthy match for Hubert’s spare prose, and the point at which they leave Adrian is both disturbing and authentic. I would go with 13 and up on this one, and it’s a great way to spark a discussion about difficult topics with people in that age group.

The other, “Graphic History of Anti-Semitism (Schiffer)” is a coffee-table book, a perfect gift for the history buff in your life, particularly if your history buff is a Jewish fatalist. Jerome Forman, a retired attorney, began collecting antique European and American anti-Semitic graphic art – postcards, posters, ads, sheet music, books and other material – after handling an employment discrimination case. His client, an African-American woman, had worked for years at the same company and was passed over for a promotion which was, instead, given to a white woman who was less qualified than she. As he prepared for and tried the case, Forman wrestled internally with his own issues and thoughts about the consequences of hatred borne of differences between people of different hues and beliefs.

Forman has divided the book into several chapters, among them, “The Mythical Jew,” “Organized Anti-Semitism” and “Jewish Power.” Many of the pieces in his collection are not in pristine shape, because he sought out material that had been used – postcards that were purchased, written on and mailed.

Forman provides information on the pieces in his collection (the places from where and to where a postcard was mailed, the history of terms such as “Sheeney,” thought to have originated in England in the 19th century). His descriptions are informative without being tedious, and devoid of outrage, a wise move. Letting the art speak for itself is a big part of what provides this worthwhile book with its power.

I’m sure they’re out there on the big web-based bookselling behemoth, but if you decide to buy one or both and there’s still an independent bookstore in your town, go there. You can also check out Worldcat, which will steer you to the nearest library where they’re available.

Or just skip it and go hang out under your bed.