October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh: And Our Time of Discontinuity

by Hal Gershowitz

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Eleven Jewish worshippers dead in Pittsburgh, senselessly gunned down in this time of general senselessness…this time of malignant discontinuity in America.  The American dream has, for the time being, turned into an American nightmare. The dream, the American dream, indeed, the American experience, has always been based on a certain cohesion in this land.  That cohesion, that sense of purpose, that phenomenon of a community pulling together as the world had never seen before is what defined American Exceptionalism as Alexis de Tocqueville observed it nearly two hundred years ago. That cohesion, has, for the time being, sadly, been lost if not destroyed.

The murder of Jews praying in Pittsburg, the attempted murder by bombing of various Trump opponents throughout America, the gunning down of Republican lawmakers on a ball field in Virginia, the slaughter of black Christian worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, politicians exhorting their followers to harass their opponents, to kick them”, a Republican president crudely, yes crudely, hurling invective at his opponents in rally after rally throughout the country, and then lecturing us that there’s no room for civil disorder after the predictable offal hits the fan—it all speaks to our loss of national cohesion, to our growing and dangerous discontinuity.  It is, for the time being, defining who we are and what we are becoming.

Election seasons in America have always been raucous and spirited, and sometimes downright unruly, but also often fun and a celebration of our remarkable rambunctious, unifying democracy.  But that’s not what we’re seeing now. We’re watching a disuniting, not a uniting, of America.

We do not know a great deal about the wing-nut who committed the mass murder in Pittsburgh yesterday other than the fact that he bought into the fiction, hook, line, and sinker, that our way of life and, indeed, our very lives, are being threatened by a marauding tidal wave of immigrant invaders (who he said were coming to slaughter us) being ushered into the United States by, of all people, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

But of course, he (and we) had been told from on high that they don’t send us their best from below the border, they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…” No, from what we’re observing, they’re overwhelmingly mothers and fathers and kids desperately seeking to get away from a desperate life.

Instead of focusing on how to efficiently process those seeking asylum or a better life in America, our national leadership, instead, is focusing, totally, on keeping them out and maligning these desperate souls in the process. We threaten to cut off aid to nations that do not stop the exodus or that allow immigrants to traverse their land on the way to America. Ironically, aid programs that improve life in those countries actually do reduce emigration from those very countries.

The cameras focus on the long line of souls literally walking thousands of miles to get to America as though it’s a phenomenon never seen before.  Well, that mass of humanity is roughly equivalent to what we once processed everyday as ships arrived from Europe with their human cargos of equally desperate men, women, and children looking for a better life.  The record, by the way, was just under 12,000 who arrived in one day at Ellis Island, 5,000 arrivals a day were pretty common. And those immigrants, and especially their children, made America greater than any slogan-emblazoned, hat-wearing politician.

It seems futile to expect the leadership we need to materialize in Washington. E Pluribus Unum (from many, one) seems, for the time being, to have been relegated to the comedy store, if not the trash heap of history.  We are watching the disuniting of America, the very opposite of what the times call for.

No doubt, spin-meisters are meeting as we write to determine how best to tamp down the calls that are sure to come for sensible weapons control in America. They’ll tell us the best way to stop a bad man with a gun is with a good man with a gun. The President of the United States opines that what we need are armed guards at our schools and places of worship and, we guess, at our shopping markets, and on our buses and trains and airplanes, movie houses and ballparks and busy intersections and department stores and Walmart’s and Walgreen’s and flea markets and busy intersections and street corners and day-care centers, any and all places where people gather, but under no circumstances should we interfere with the everyone’s right to accumulate an arsenal of handguns, long guns, semi-automatic guns, small, medium and large magazines and even machine guns as long as they were manufactured before May 1986.

We have an election in nine days.  Voters should ask themselves which candidates will work to bring us together and which candidates see discontinuity as a winning strategy. We had better choose well.

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13 responses to “Pittsburgh: And Our Time of Discontinuity”

  1. Perry says:

    My vote will undoubtedly be for a conservative agenda. While I abhor Trump’s rhetoric and his incendiary remarks I find the
    media continuously adding fuel to the fire.

    The Democratic machine of today is hardly reminiscent of the
    past. Their leadership largely is bereft of statesmen and they
    too have been incendiary in their strategy.

    The blame for the attack is largely BDS and the barrage of
    increased anti antisemitism is failure of the media to condemn
    the “Organized campaign against Jew’s and Israel.

    PS I for one have been a long time owner of fire arms and feel
    confiscation will not secure a safe Jewish population,only make them more vulnerable.

  2. The rhetoric we condemn in this essay has nothing whatever to do with “a conservative agenda.” It has only to do with a hate-filled, nativist, xenophobic agenda. Our essay certainly condemns the incendiary language across the political spectrum.
    While we have called out BDS for what is, anti-semitism, the Pittsburgh attack, and the perpetrator are in our judgment the product of home-grown antisemitic craziness. No one has suggested confiscation of firearms, but we fail to see how the hundreds of millions of guns (literally) that permeate the American landscape should make Jews or anyone else feel safer.

  3. susan duman says:

    This one was different. I felt personally targeted. Of course, we must vote. Will the outcome make a difference? The hatred and willingness to die because of refugees entering our country is something I’ve never experienced.

  4. gloriaguttman says:

    Thank you Hal for standing out …for ” truth .” …and an outstanding piece… too bad you cannot be a part of the defunct present “political ” where you would stand up and not be cowed.

  5. JoAnn McGrath says:

    Hal, I’m happy you’re back…you were missed !

    I look forward to your view on things; your thinking is so clear
    and thought provoking


  6. Lolly Levy says:

    Thank you so much Hal for the expressing yourself so eloquently It is everything I have been thinking and not quite able to express. Again thank you for sharing your thoughts thoughts
    Let’s work together to get out the vote

  7. Steve Marcus says:

    Hal: I too have missed your essays. Sadly, since they have been on hiatus, the level of discourse has totally disintegrated to the point where thinly veiled hate speech is enabling all kinds of nut jobs to act out on their grievances.

    In a way, this has less to do with guns than it has to do with the world’s most powerful weapon…..WORDS. Yours can help us to be more cognizant of the danger involved when we think only of ourselves and not others.

    Please keep your words coming.

  8. Steve Prover says:

    Powerful piece.
    Welcome back.

  9. Judy says:

    I agree with Perry. The left leaning has lost me, I attempt to read and watch both liberal and conservative news…… the left is soooo angry I find they are fueling the fire.

  10. Dr. Lydia Axelrod says:

    The left did not raise guns in Charlotte or in places of worship and other venues. The left does not attempt to cut Social Security or Medicare. They do not look askance at the plight of the less fortunate.
    I agree that both sides are too contentious. However, these two sides are not equivalent in the realm of intimidating hostility.

    The article is amazing and I applaud your insights and eloquence.
    Vote wisely and vote to unite to restore the continuity of our democracy.

  11. Ed says:

    I’ve always had an open mind about those who disagree with me. Debating differing points of view on complex topics has been a hallmark of our democracy. I no longer spend time or energy in reflecting upon the views of those who support our current President. Unfortunately I simply dismiss them as ignorant, simple-minded, and devoid of mortality. Reasoning with them is futile.

  12. Ed says:

    Should read morality.

  13. Bobbi Holland says:

    Welcome back, Hal. I have missed your clear eyed, truthful, fearless messages. This one is no exception. Thanks for calling it as it is—bad behavior on both sides. It is justs that the “slogan emblazened, hat wearing politition” is more than we can tolerate. Lets hope the right message gets sent on Nov.6th. Thanks Hal

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