Can you teach an old dog new tricks? I’m not sure, and this Earth is getting pretty damn old. Speaking of old, Judaism, one of many religions, yet persecution against Jews should be getting old by now, right? Wrong. In recent events, the Pittsburgh Tree of Life shooting happened. It just happened like any other shooting in the United States. By that I mean, some people immediately knew about it, getting phone calls, text messages, voicemails, and others were oblivious. In our Holocaust and Genocide class, we have, as a class, bonded over the astonishment of ongoing atrocities against people over what I would deem, the most absurd reasons.
In most genocides, the fears of the oppressors, I believe are unwarranted. A fear or paranoia that these people are in some way harmful to society, is the same idea that disabled people should be killed at birth, or hidden away from society as to not hurt the fragility of their perceived worlds. No true perfection exists, no genes are deemed the healthiest, as no person on Earth has escaped death yet. In most genocides the women are raped, this is completely counterintuitive to the overall goal of these genocides. This is the case in our understanding of the Armenian and the Bosnian genocides, but they are far from the only genocides to inflict rape on its victims.
But how can rape occur if those committing it believe these people to be unclean? In the same way no one helps someone that fell in the street if the first five people that saw it, did not give that person assistance. A collective of people that believe is all it takes, to pressure people that don’t believe, into doing something for their reasons and their gains. Just this week a viral picture has emerged from a Wisconsin high school, in which a group of boys taking prom pictures were doing a Nazi salute. At the far right side, second from the bottom, is black student. He is not partaking, but he is not leaving either. This is a pitfall of being a part of a group. In one instance it protects the smaller voices, by the greater number. In this particular example, it kept boys too young to understand their opinions on these topics from leaving. This idea can be seen in how radical groups form. It can start with small innocent friendship based on common shared interests. But as the friendship of a particular group progresses, the potential for an extreme to be tolerated within the group rises. This can often be seen in families when one member is a little off their rocker, but your mother says, that’s just the way your cousin is. This is the case in Home Alone,when the main character Kevin is going to be sharing a room with his cousin, who still wets the bed. To be fair, I wouldn’t want to share that bed either.
At least with Kevin in the movie, he genuinely doesn’t want to be around someone else’s bodily fluids while he sleeps. This is not the case with the Tree of Life shooting. This particular synagogue was in support of certain immigration aid programs that the shooter did not politically agree with. For him this was the last straw against a community he already hated for their religious beliefs. This event did not need to occur, the quickness to violence is apparent in our culture. From my childhood I can recall the times I learned in school very little about sex education, but teachers reveled in talking about models of guns, of wars, and of ongoing violence. Understandably, in a history or modern events course, it is necessary. However, in the extent to my limited experience, I am shocked recounting my childhood, growing up in a post 9/11 United States. I have grown up in a country obsessed with guns, with terror, and without pause for contemplation. I have no ill feelings towards video games; I instead have a concern for why our culture is so interested. The blame belongs to no one thing or person, as no one event can cause such a derailment of human compassion. But it’s a place to start putting things into a new order.
This culture has a choice, as in Charlottesville UVA, and in Pittsburgh Tree of Life, to look to the harder choice. The one in which the shooter was not evil, but disturbed and hurt by his thoughts and actions. This is not to be mistake for contempt against the victims, but to try to begin an understanding of the minds within our shared country and communities. The past cannot be undone, the future, is all we have. We need to make it one where people, no matter how different, are made to feel included and are able to share in the celebrations of those in their communities. But first we need to learn, the offenses, and the motivations behind them before we can forward.
Jackie is currently attending Old Dominion University attaining an English B.A. with a focus in creative writing. She is interested in topics related to the study of law, ethics, human rights and social norms.