On October 27, 2018, an anti-Semite murdered eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This horrific assault has been called the worst attack on worshipping Jews ever to occur in the US.
Good people of every faith stand in solidarity with the Tree of Life congregation and with Jews everywhere.
Some assume, without reading it, that my book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype is an anti-Semitic book. Some assume that Poles and Jews are destined to be at odds.
These assumptions are false. There is a long tradition of Polish-Jewish cooperation and mutual affection. That tradition is cited in the book and documented on this blog, for example in this series of blog posts entitled "Poland's Importance to Jews; Jews' Importance to Poland."
Rather, there are people who monger hatred. Such people can come from any ethnicity. One such person is Donald Trump. In a 2016 blog post entitled "My Top Twelve Reasons for Not Voting for Donald Trump," I gave as my very first reason Trump's hate-mongering. Another reason was his evident personality disorder. People with personality disorders see themselves in combat with the world. They recreate around them situations of chaos and conflict. They monger hatred of one for the other, in order to create chaos and hostility. Trump does this with his words. He encourages Americans to hate each other.
The synagogue shooter voiced disapproval of Trump online. The shooter said that Trump did not go far enough.
But Trump did allow anti-Semites to support him. Three times, on camera, in an interview with Jake Tapper, Trump declined to disavow David Duke of the KKK. Trump's closing campaign ad was a video of an anti-Semitic fantasy, a dystopian American where George Soros and other Jews made life impossible. Trump supporters condone his hate-mongering.
One of my most anti-Trump acquaintances is Otto, who wrote Ripples of Sin about growing up with a father who served, with distinction, in the Wehrmacht during WW II. Because Otto is acutely aware of the forces that contribute to the rise of evil, he feels it necessary to speak out about Trump's hate-mongering. I feel the same way. To write Bieganski I spent years of my life studying hate, atrocity, and WW II. It's my duty to apply my knowledge and speak up against hate-mongering.
Scholars far more prominent than I feel the same way. Christopher R. Browning, author of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland has just published "The Suffocation of Democracy" in the New York Review of Books. In this article, Browning writes, "As a historian specializing in the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and Europe in the era of the world wars, I have been repeatedly asked about the degree to which the current situation in the United States resembles the interwar period and the rise of fascism in Europe. I would note several troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling difference."
Yes, decent people everywhere extend their sympathies to the congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue. But we must do more. We must speak out against the hate-mongering of America's current president. We must speak up when Facebook friends insist that the synagogue shooting never happened, that it is a false flag, that it was orchestrated by George Soros to manipulate the masses.
We must speak up when friends engage in that Soviet propaganda topic, "Whataboutism." Rather than address Trump's hate-mongering, they attempt to render speech impossible with endless changes of subject. What about this or that hateful thing that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama allegedly said?
We must be brave to do this. Our courage is the least we can offer. My father's courage was exercised in risking his life, fighting fascists and racists in World War II. I should be at least as brave as he when confronting liars and hate-mongers on social media.