The Dayton Chant: “Do Something”

Mourners gather for a vigil at the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.

Two mass shootings in 13 terrifying hours only days after another mass shooting at a Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.

Welcome to America 2019, where there have been 251  shootings in 216 days. Think about that. There have been more mass shootings than there have been days in the year.
Dayton and El Paso join the ranks of communities reeling from gun violence. We’ve seen it happen in churches and synagogues, schools, grocery stores, festivals and now at Walmart.
In the immediate aftermath, you see the same script unfold.
Tweets sending thoughts and prayers from our so called leaders.
Devastated police chiefs, first responders and mayors declaring that this will not break the spirit of the community followed by the inevitable political arguments between the left and the right.
But nothing ever seems to change does it?
Within a few days, the national press moves on although I suspect the communities and loved ones never do. 
Then we have another mass atrocity and we repeat the cycle. 
 
What seems to be missing are solutions or even efforts to seriously work together to tackle the issue of gun violence in our country. 
Legislative remedies seem to be harder than splitting the atom—the gun lobby is too strong for our weak kneed Congress to stand up to so they won’t.
Congress has failed on every single issue of importance facing this country whether it’s health care, immigration, infrastructure, climate change etc. 
They fail despite overwhelming support for common sense solutions. They’ve failed when high school kids were slaughtered in Parkland and they failed when kindergarten students were brutally murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 
So what do we do?
Because accepting this as the new normal is unacceptable. 
 
According to Axios, a digital news service, international research has found that U.S. mass shootings cannot be explained by a violent culture, racial divisions or mental health.
I’m not sure I fully buy that argument but I’ll listen.
We have all three in our country. And all three afflictions seem to be getting worse by the week fueled by a rotten to the core political system and lousy national “leaders” who divide, lie, preen and posture. 
 
The reason why the researchers don’t blame our violent culture is because they believe the problem is caused by the sheer volume of guns in our country. 
 
The United States has 270 million guns. It’s an astronomical number.
 
No other country has more than 46 million guns, according to Axios.
These stats will prompt the usual b.s. responses.
There’s no need to repeat them.
What is needed is real leadership and a desire to collaborate not divide.
Nothing gets solved when people go to their sides of the ideological divide.
So while I don’t think our violent culture helps and there is certainly rampant mental health issues plaguing our society, I think a main culprit is hatred and anger. Extremism is on the rise and if we have any sense we will pay attention to it and do something about it. Hate crimes are also on the rise, fueled by a divisive political system, the power of social media to sow hate and the immense power of the internet to misinform.
Foreign enemies are sowing division and so are extreme websites and chat rooms where the El Paso shooter posted his hate filled “manifesto.”
All of this is happening at a time when our press’ credibility is under daily attack and we are losing local newspapers by the truckload.
This is a recipe for disaster and violence. An uninformed populace can easily be led astray.
This space usually calls for local solutions to problems because local government is the government closest to the people and frankly because Washington has been feckless for decades.
But I think this particular issue requires national leadership.
What if the best minds from law enforcement, mental health, public health, sociology, government, business and academia rolled up their sleeves and worked together on a bipartisan basis to address gun violence?
What a concept.
It might even remind us that we are Americans before we are Democrats or Republicans. We can use that reminder.
What if they came up with a list of recommendations to stem the violence and we  the people insisted that Congress act immediately. Sounds naïve… I know.
But does anyone else have a better idea? Tens of millions of Americans are all ears.
We can  and must do something, including making a serious effort to stem the violence or we can wring our hands, blame our fellow Americans and meet again on the battlefield in the aftermath of the next tragedy.
There’s always one around the corner.
As for the local scene, the shootings in Gilroy felt personal. The news rattled me.
In 2006, Nancy Stewart-Franczak, founder of the local Garlic Festival, hosted a few of us on a trip to Gilroy to see first hand what she hoped our Garlic Fest could become.
We were moved by the community participation in Gilroy and by the fact that the festival funded local nonprofits for the year.
We got to know the organizers and our hearts went out to them when the recent violence occurred.
While the Garlic Fest is no longer in Delray—a loss no doubt– we do host other events and attract crowds to our downtown several times a week. You can’t help but think: what if this happened here?
We know it can.
Of course, we cannot stop living or the domestic terrorists with their hate filled manifestos will win. But we can do our best to prepare—like they did in Gilroy which had a model plan and response–but sadly they still suffered death and injury.
And we can insist that Congress and the president seize this moment to lead or at least get out of the way if the American people propose common sense solutions.
If you believe in America—as I still do despite its problems and division—you must believe we have the wherewithal to stop this carnage. 
Do something, they chanted at the governor in Ohio. Do something…..
We better.
 

Tree Of Life

“These are wonderful people, good souls, who were just coming to synagogue as they usually did,” Rabbi Chuck Diamond, Tree of Life Congregation.

Diamond was a rabbi at Tree of Life until about a year ago when he retired. Like many in the tight knit Jewish enclave,  Rabbi Diamond remained a part of the community and knew the victims of Saturday’s tragedy in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He knew and had experienced their goodness.

Isn’t that always the case?

Aren’t they always good people who end up massacred or gravely injured while worshipping, going to school, attending a concert, sitting in a movie theater etc.
Take a look at last weekend in America.

A close look at 72 hours—two African Americans shot at random at a Kroger by a gunman who had tried to barge into a church earlier, the arrest of a hate filled crazy who terrorized the nation by sending pipe bombs to those whose politics he didn’t like and the massacre of 11 mostly elderly Jews as they went to synagogue to mark the Sabbath and to attend a baby naming ceremony.

One of the victims was 97 year old Rose Mallinger; a fixture of the congregation and a beloved member of the community.

We are being told by our so-called leaders to fear a “caravan” of desperate people or “others” who are coming for our jobs, benefits, possessions and privilege from outside our borders.

But maybe we should fear those who are already here. Those who decide to “go in” as the American Nazi wrote on some hate filled website and murder 11 good people or the mentally deficient steroid abusing loon who drove around in a van professing his hate with images of people he didn’t like in the crosshairs.

72 hours in America.
And this hate and violence is starting to feel very close to home.

I mentioned in an earlier post  that my wife and I were walking our dogs a few weeks ago when we heard gunshots across Lake Ida Road.
There for the grace…you know the rest.

I’ve been to Squirrel Hill, it’s a short distance from where my sister in law lives. A nephew has visited that very synagogue.
The pipe bomber spent his last weekend of freedom working at a strip club a few minutes away in West Palm Beach.

On Saturday night, we met a few old friends for dinner in Pompano Beach. Of course, the talk of the dinner was the craziness of our politics and the violence of our society in general.
We talked about being afraid to be out in public. We talked about how frequent the violence has become, how angry people seem to be and how our leaders and communities seem ill equipped to actually do something about it.

So we will see a few days of thoughts and prayers, some vague promises to tone down the rhetoric and then life will go on until the next tragedy which is never far behind.

We are taught that love will win.
That love will outlast hate. And I want and need desperately to believe that.
But these times are testing those beliefs and our faith in humanity itself.

Consider…
Famine in Yemen, children wasting away because some rich Saudi prince is playing politics.

A Washington Post columnist cut into bits in a NATO member’s embassy because he’s a critic of a regime?!  But the show went on when the country that sent the hit squad held an investment conference the very next week. Oh and we’ll sell them more weapons too. Not because they have shown how responsible they are but because we can’t afford not to cash their checks. It ought to be the other way around. We shouldn’t dare cash their checks because now we’ve put a price on our values.

Something very important is being lost in all this carnage, nastiness and looking the other way.
Something very basic.

Our decency.

Our values.

The moral high ground or even an attempt to hold it.

Where does it end?

We are at an inflection point and a reflection point as well.

Which road do we go down?

It’s not a hard choice but we have to make it. Love and hope or hate and fear.

Rose Mallinger, a 97 year old Woman and 10 other good souls  were  murdered this weekend by a Nazi in Pittsburgh. Two people were gunned down in a Kroger by a man hunting people of color.
It’s not supposed to happen here.

We are supposed to be better than this.
We are supposed to be a beacon for the world.

Prejudice Hurts

By now, you’ve probably read and watched countless stories and opinions about what happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Since we are a hyperlocal blog, we don’t typically comment on national news. But there is a sense that a line was crossed last weekend and that we have arrived at a cultural moment in which change may be possible. Does it wake us up? Or do we let it slide?

Positive change is never certain and if it comes it probably won’t be overnight, but positive change is possible and I hope we as a nation seize it. We’ve missed other opportunities.

Sandy Hook was a moment that many thought would forever change the debate over gun control and lead to changes–it didn’t happen.

Maybe, Charlottesville will be different. Maybe it will focus us on the dangers posed by hate groups, the evils of racism and the ugliness of anti-Semitism.

Or maybe in a few days, it will become a faint memory and we will go about our lives–until the next flashpoint. And there’s always another flashpoint.

America has been divided and subdivided into so many groups and subgroups that we are losing focus on what unifies us.

Often these groups don’t talk to each other or if they do, they talk past each other in loud voices meant to demean and diminish.

I have long felt that Washington is broken, unable to solve problems or seize opportunities. That’s not a profound conclusion.

When you think about it, it’s amazing how great a place America still is considering the dysfunction of our politics. Can you imagine how much better we could be if our government and its leaders were average instead of abysmal?

And make no mistake, they are abysmal.

Congress can’t craft a budget—which is their  responsibility. They can’t address infrastructure, immigration, education, taxes or health care. Their constant brinksmanship on the debt ceiling—which they never address—will cost taxpayers $2.5 billion this year when they finally vote to increase it, once they get done bloviating on C-Span.

And it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, liberal, moderate or conservative—nobody seems capable of governing which in my definition requires that you get things done and solve problems.

So this isn’t a partisan rant. I think both parties have failed this country. And I think that is what has stoked a whole lot of anger and frustration. And this week, we are reminded that for some anger and frustration turns to hatred and so they look for scapegoats. Hatred never solved anything, but it sure is dangerous and repulsive too.

So I am beginning to believe that any hope for meaningful change will start in our nation’s towns and cities.

Want better race relations? Get to work on it in your town and city.

Want to create housing and job opportunities? Elect local officials who understand how to encourage the private sector to invest, or at least those who won’t chase away jobs and development that makes sense.

Want safer streets? Invest in public safety.

And on and on it goes.

Of course, it would be great if the federal government provided some resources. After all, we do pay taxes.

So help on the opioid crisis would be nice. Check that, it’s essential.

But you get the picture.

Local is where it’s at–for most things.

Cities, counties and states can serve as laboratories for innovation, but only if ‘we the people’ get involved and stay involved and unite as Americans.

Personally, I was repulsed by the images from Charlottesville. It’s a beautiful city—the hometown of Jefferson, the architect of our Bill of Rights. I took a course many years ago at the University Of Virginia Darden School Of Business and I thought: “wow, I can live here.” You felt Jefferson in that city— so to see the images of violence and hear the stupid chants was nauseating.

Nazi’s and white supremacists walking in the streets spewing hate ought to be a wakeup call for Americans.

As Heather Heyer wrote in her final Facebook post before losing her life protesting hate: “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

She was right…

 

 

 

#OrlandoStrong

OrlandoStrong

“We will not be defined by a hateful shooter. We will be defined by how we love each other.” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. ‪#‎PrayersforOrlando