I admit to losing it Friday when Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, speaking in the Washington National Cathedral at the interment services for Matthew Shepard, the young man who was pistol-whipped and left for dead 20 years ago at a remote prairie in Wyoming, said to Matt’s ashes and choking back tears, “You are safe now.”
I lost it again Saturday as I watched the story unfold about the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The dead, the injured, the emotionally pulverized congregants should have been able to enter the house of worship for Sabbath services with the same sense of relief, “We are safe now.” They were not. So, the tears.
Their freedom from danger, and the sanctity of Saturday’s Tree of Life services, were further desecrated by the shooter’s horrible cry, “All Jews must die.”
It’s sad because in today’s America, there is no safety from hate.
I’m losing it again right now, but this time “it” is my temper. Here we have Robert Bowers, 46 years old, with a social media account filled with anti-Semitic posts, and armed with an assault rifle and handguns. He walks into a synagogue, allegedly killing 11 people and injuring several more, and the president of the United States could only bring himself to say how “terrible” it is, that “something has to be done,” and then came up with the suggestion: Place more armed guards inside synagogues. Oh yes, then he offered a way forward: “I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue.”
Each day, I wake up hoping to come up with at least one reason not to dislike President Trump. Each day, I fail. More armed guards in synagogues? Four police officers, presumably all armed, were shot at the synagogue Saturday. Waggle the death penalty threat? Yeah, Bowers is no doubt shaking in his boots — or laughing his head off.
Trump told reporters Saturday that the Pittsburgh shooting had little to do with laws. That’s what he always says after a gun massacre. Control access to guns? Never. Trump wants more guns.
Losing it? How can I not struggle to control my anger after also learning about Wednesday’s shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Ky.?
According to authorities, Gregory Bush, a white man, tried unsuccessfully to enter a predominately black church. Having failed at that, he then allegedly walked into the Kroger store 10 to 15 minutes later, shot from behind and multiple times two African Americans shoppers, 69-year-old Maurice Stallard, who was shopping with his 12-year-old grandson, and 67-year-old Vickie Lee Jones.
Making his getaway, Bush reportedly encountered Ed Harrell, who was waiting for his wife in the parking lot. Harrell said he grabbed his revolver and crouched down next to his car as he saw Bush walk “nonchalantly” through the parking lot with a gun by his side. Harrell said he called out to ask what was going on. The gunman reportedly replied, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.” (Bush was arrested and faces two counts of murder.)
Pittsburgh, Jeffersontown. Today in America, no one and no place are safe. Losing it? There are no words for how I’m feeling.