A Violent Year Ends

On Sunday morning we were worshipping God at the West Douglas Church of Christ over in rough Delano, and that evening we were having dinner with the folks and a brother and sister-in-law at a swank retirement village where some adorable young children from a nearby synagogue were charmingly singing Hanukkah songs. All the local sports teams won in the afternoon, the food was good, and there was a lingering holiday cheer.
We came home to the news the someone had walked into the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, with a shotgun hidden in his overcoat, and killed two people before being gunned down by a couple of gun-toting members of the congregation. Late Saturday night in Monsey, New York, a man walked into a synagogue with a machete and severely wounded five people during a Hanukkah celebration, and although no one was sufficiently armed to prevent his escape an arrest was made a short time later. Such is life in America in the waning days of 2019, where such senseless acts of mass murder and mayhem are commonplace.
It happens all too often at shopping malls and music festivals and gay bars and sporting events and in random workplaces and crowded streets, but it’s all the more unsettling on the all too frequent occasions when it happens at schools and houses of worship and other places that ought to be considered especially sacred. Which is not to say that the lives lost in one place are any less precious than those lost in another, but only to express a natural human yearning for some safe refuge in such a cruel world as this.
As we try to envision 2020 through squinted eyes we see no reason to hope the problem will be solved by year’s end. So far there’s no known motive for the incident at the West Freeway Church of Christ, and might well prove some personal beef between the shooter and on the of the congregants, as the denomination tends to be blessedly apolitical and focused on more eternal matters, but it appears that the incident in Monsey was yet another manifestation of the Jew hatred that has long infected humanity and has lately been on the rise here and abroad, and every single incident of the past several years is probably best explained by the ancient belief shared by all religions that evil exists and persists in the heart of man. It’s been there all along, so far as we can tell, and neither of our political parties of the moment can offer any better solutions than the parties of the past came up with.
Despite our denomination’s placid and apolitical bent we’re not at all surprised that a couple of Church of Christ-goers in a Texas town called White Settlement happened to be armed during Sunday worship services, and we think they’re on firm scriptural ground with the admonition in Luke 22:36 that “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one,” and in this case it seems to have limited the carnage, so you can score one for the Republican argument about good guys with guns. Still, it’s as inadequate a solution as trying to get rid of guns.
So far as we know no one at the West Douglas Church is packing heat on a Sunday morning, and even if we were to bring the fancy handgun our father gave us we’d probably be of little help to our fellow congregants if something evil came our way, so we can’t blame those Jews in Monsey for sharing our faith in the goodness or at least basic decency that also persists in the heart of man, and usually prevails. Between God almighty and the local constabulary of our up-to-date western civilization we should be able to count on that.
The best that the politicians can do about it is to encourage the better angels of our nature, as President Abraham Lincoln once put it during a very divided and violent time in our history, but it’s hard to envision that happening in 2020.

— Bud Norman

A Long Weekend of Bipartisan Hate

Last Friday some dreary chores had us up and about earlier than usual, so we wound up listening to Rush Limbaugh’s program on our car’s AM radio, and were further dispirited to hear a once formidable voice of conservatism making an utter fool of himself. Through the rest of the day, we unhappily found, much of the rest of the conservative punditry was doing the same.
On Thursday Limbaugh had assured his audience that the person who had been sending mail bombs to prominent Democratic politicians and liberal activists was surely a “Democratic operative,” as “Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing,” so he struggled to explain the breaking news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested with seemingly convincing fingerprint and DNA evidence a fellow who wasn’t at all a “Democratic” operative and sure looked an awful lot like a die-hard supporter of Republican President Donald Trump.
Limbaugh initially seized on a report from some internet publication he had to admit he’d never of that the suspect was registered to vote as a member of the Green Party, and was also a member of the Seminole Indian tribe, but within the hour he was obliged to tell his listeners to disregard that as every news medium you’ve ever heard of confirmed that in fact the suspect was a registered Republican ever since Trump won the party’s nomination and the Seminoles disavowed any kinship to the man. There was also some widely televised footage of the suspect’s van, which was covered with with pro-Trump and anti-Democrat and liberal-hating decals, but by the end of the broadcast Limbaugh was agreeing with his “ditto-head” callers that those decals looked suspiciously faded than they should be in the Florida sun, and that a “deep state” conspiracy was still plausible.
By the end of the day a lucky Washington Post photographer and several Facebook users were showing their year-old pictures of the decal-covered van, the suspect’s own voluminous social media postings showed him to be a die-hard Trump supporter, the Cable News Network came up with some footage of the suspect waving a sign at a Trump rally with the same “CNN Sucks” motto that was emblazoned on his van, a former employer and several friends of the suspect and even one of his lawyers told interviewers about his intense affection for Trump, and pretty much every news medium you’ve ever heard of had ample evidence that just maybe some Republicans do sometime do these things. Even then, though, some talk show hosts and their callers and internet posters and some more prominent conservative voices were grasping at the straws of those un-faded decals to keep their “deep state” conspiracy theories afloat.
All of which was quite embarrassing to such old-fashioned conservatives and pre-Trump Republicans as ourselves, who prefer to acknowledge how very complicated those stubborn facts can be. Limbaugh likes to call himself the “Mayor of Realville,” so he should be realistic enough to concede that even Republicans human beings occasionally do awful things, and that it sure does look as if this is one of those times. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter assured her readers that “From the Haymarket riot to the Unabomber, bombs are a liberal tactic,” but she seems to have forgotten the death-toll-record-setting domestic terrorist bombing a federal building in Oklahoma City and that bombing of an Atlanta gay bar and several bombings of black churches that can’t credibly be blamed on liberals. Fox News hosts Lou Dobbs and Geraldo Rivera were also peddling the “deep state” conspiracies, but at least Dobbs deleted his “Tweets” and Rivera frankly admitted that he had “outsmarted” himself.
They’re all quite right to argue that from the Haymarket riot to the Unabomber to the latest Antifa thuggery certain people on the left have been guilty of abominable behavior, and that all along prominent Democratic politicians and leading liberal voices have engaged in rhetoric that arguably incited such violence, but we wish they’d also acknowledge the craziness on the right and their rhetorical role in it, and start urging their revved-up faithful to calm the hell down and face up to the damnable fact that none of us are blameless.
On Saturday we awoke to the dispiriting news that some hateful man had slaughtered 11 American Jews and wounded several others as they worshipped God at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It will be hard for the left to pin the blame on Trump, who has an overly well-regarded Jewish son-in-law married to a favorite daughter who’s a Jewish convert and therefore a couple of Jewish grandchildren, as well a very Israel-friendly foreign policy, but neither can the right plausibly blame the massacre on the left. The ancient and still-inexplicable hatred of Jews can be found in both parties and on both sides of the political spectrum, but here’s hoping that the mainstream voices on both sides will condemn it without blaming the other.

— Bud Norman