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

Ranting with manners: Donald Trump, Larry David and why Tribe Golden Rule needs to start role modeling polite rage

Larry David calls Donald Trump a racist on live television. People magazine writes about it. What comes crawling out of the woodwork?

The love children of talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Who are, in turn, the love children of talk show hosts like Father Coughlin and Bob Grant.

Wouldn’t you just love to invite these two to your next dinner party? (If the answer is yes, I’m washing my hair that night.)

Here are the first two comments on the story:

  1. “That’s how we get rid of the spics (sic). OFFER $500 BOUNTY ON EACH SPIC’S HEAD. As the saying goes dead or alive. Help out the economy at the same time getting rid of the spanish (sic) rats.” Vote trump (sic)
  2. “International Zionism has relentlessly pushed for open immigration in every Western country going back to the days of the Russian revolution (sic); especially just before and right after WW2 where the guilt tripping has never stopped; with the advent of terrorism and the proliferation of Muslims entering Europe and the USA they are no (sic) backtracking a little bit, and obfuscating their role…..the open immigration is for the USA and other countries, of course, but ironically not for Israel. That is just for Jews..” The Advisor 77

Aren’t they nice?

There are so many things to find wrong with the writings of “Vote trump (sic),” “The Advisor 77,” but I will refrain from any critique of their ability to construct grammatical sentences or logical arguments in English and focus, instead, on the messages they are attempting to send.

For starters, it’s a good bet that Vt and TA77 are not the names that appear on their birth certificates. Then, there’s the fact that People seems to have no problem featuring their comments on its web site. In this, People is not unique. My hometown paper’s comment section reads like the Greek Chorus from a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

It’s easy to point the finger at haters and trolls who seem to have unlimited time and energy to post their vitriol on all kinds of web sites. But people like Limbaugh, Trump and, in my town, our sheriff, David Clarke, have and continue to pave the way for people like VT and TA77. The big monkeys beat their chests, spouting nastiness and getting rich. The little monkeys, inspired by their behavior, peep out from behind the trees to throw poop. Then they run for cover.

So what’s to be done in a world where the voices of people doing their best to play by the fair and honorable rulebook are drowned out by an endless parade of extremism and nastiness?

How do we raise voices and create pathways to tangible kindness in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, a world in which 158 US families will control the purse strings of the upcoming presidential election and the loudest, meanest voices get the most attention?

What do we do to reclaim our collective humanity in a world in which a nonstop parade of mean-spirited fear-mongers are successfully pitting people with common interests against each other for their own benefit? (A point illustrated by the following joke I heard back in 2010, just after Act 10 was passed.

“A 1 percenter, a Tea Party Republican and a union member sit down at a table, on which sits a plate containing a dozen cookies. The 1 percenter takes 11 cookies. Cocking his head at the union member, he addresses the Tea Party Republican.

‘Look out for that guy,’ he says, conspiratorially. ‘I think he’s trying to take your cookie.’”)

We stop being quiet, that’s what. We can get angry and stay polite. We can find each other, our tribe of angry, polite people. We can stand, together, and fight for decency, civility and tangible kindness.

Postscript: A recent checkback an hour after taking the screenshot in this post showed that Vt’s comment was deleted. TA77’s is still up. So what’s the takeaway? That coded hate phrases (“International Zionism”) are okay but overt slurs (“them spics”) are off-limits? (Note to VT: You might want to tear a page out of TA77’s book next time, couching your rage about your tiny privates in hateful terms more acceptable to People’s comment moderators.)