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We learned their names on Sunday.
There were 11 of them, trapped and slaughtered in their house of worship, victims as old as 97.
They died 500 miles away in Pittsburgh, and chances are that no one here knew them. Most of us don’t share their Jewish faith.
But the truth is, we do know them — all 11 of them — because they are us.
They are the elderly couple who sat next to you in your pew during Sunday service. They are your mother, your father, your grandparents. They are you.
The evil committed in the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday morning was an evil committed against every American. Each drop of blood spilled in that synagogue was our blood, and the killer’s hate toward his targets was a hate for all of us.
And yet, we fear, most people in our country won’t see it that way.
In what has now become a gruesomely familiar pattern, we will start to pick apart the killer’s motives and background. In the coming days, we’ll scrounge for explanations for his extremism, his virulent hate, his political views.
Perhaps it is a flaw of our nature, or just how we tend to process such things, but we’ll compartmentalize the violence and point fingers and grasp for someone or something to blame. We tend to get lost in the details and blinded by arguments over gun laws, mental illness and toxic politics.
The one thing we won’t do is look in the mirror.
Why should we be surprised that when we purposely stoke the flames of anger, division and savagery in our country, we set fires that we’re not able to control?
Why is it not obvious that when we lose all sense of empathy and abandon any effort to understand the views and beliefs of others, we care less and less about what happens to them?
Is it not rational to believe that when we portray our fellow Americans as enemies — “enemies of the state,” even — because of their color, politics, religion, sexuality or other differences, something bad may eventually happen to those Americans?
In the vacuum of civility in our country today, hate is thriving. It is like a black mold that we’ve allowed to spread unchecked as we become increasingly oblivious to its stench.
No one went on national television and encouraged someone to send mail bombs to Democrats, or shoot up a synagogue, or do any of the other hateful acts we’ve witnessed in recent years.
But no one had to. We’ve been feeding the demons among us with our own fears and prejudices.
What is sad is that within a few days, or maybe a couple of weeks, the deaths of those 11 men and women in Pittsburgh will fade from the headlines. It won’t be until the next mass shooting, or something similarly abhorrent, that we’ll remember, and the pattern of anger and blame begins again.
Through the long lens of history, we will look back at this tumultuous time in America and realize how culpable we all are. It’s not about gun laws or our ineffective Congress or a filterless, bombastic president who lacks the moral leadership we so much crave. We, as a society, draw the boundaries around what we tolerate, and it is time we say, “No more.”
We should all pray that these 11 souls will be the last victims of this dark chapter in our nation’s history:
• Rose Mallinger, 97;
• Richard Gottfried, 65;
• David Rosenthal, 54;
• Cecil Rosenthal, 59;
• Bernice Simon, 84;
• Sylvan Simon, 86;
• Joyce Fienberg, 75;
• Jerry Rabinowitz, 66;
• Daniel Stein, 71;
• Melvin Wax, 88;
• Irving Younger, 69.