REFUSE TO become accustomed, even as mass shootings become customary. Insist on being shocked and outraged, no matter how often we are confronted with unspeakable horror. Do not become inured. We owe that much to the victims.
The taking of 11 innocent and precious lives in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning, and the wounding of six others, was, in one sense, wrenchingly familiar: A hateful man who finds it all too easy in this country to arm himself with weapons of mass murder. Police who respond bravely but, inevitably, too late. Emergency rooms that swing professionally into action.
And, before long, heartbreaking tales of lives interrupted, loves stolen away, families that will never be the same.
We can no longer be surprised. But we must still be shocked. A primary school in Connecticut, a church in Charleston, a concert in Las Vegas: Each is a unique and unacceptable — unacceptable — tragedy. It was almost unbearably sad Saturday to hear that the shooter had chosen a baby-naming ceremony as his target. It was almost unbearably frightening to contemplate the worst attack ever in this country against Jews, on a Sabbath morning, at a time of rising anti-Semitism and other toxic bigotry. It was almost unbearably poignant to hear Pittsburgh’s public safety director say, almost wonderingly, “These incidents usually occur in other cities.”
Yes, they occur in other cities, until they occur in our own. They occur in someone else’s church, or mosque, or synagogue, until our own is breached. They occur in a faraway university or high school, until, shockingly, violence comes to our own.
But they are all our own. Each is unique, and uniquely unacceptable, but each belongs to all of us. And each should stir us, not to despair, but to the political and civic involvement that can lead to changes that we know could help: actions against hatred and bigotry, actions to bring some sanity to the American weapons bazaar, actions to improve mental-health care. No single action could guarantee the prevention of any single atrocity. But taken together, we know our actions could make a difference.
“We simply cannot accept this violence as a normal part of American life,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said Saturday afternoon.
He is right. The violence is a normal part of American life. The abnormal has become normal. But we must not accept it. We must not become accustomed. We owe that much to the victims, and to our future.