Welcome – for better or worse – to my New Normal.
Since mid-January, there have been nearly 100 phoned-in bomb threats of Jewish Community Centers, day schools and synagogues around the country, including the Sabes JCC and St. Paul JCC. We’ve had fliers with swastikas posted around Dinkytown and drawn on a whiteboard in a University of Minnesota dorm room. There have been bathroom-stall graffiti at Lakeville North High School adorned with swastikas, KKK support and racial slurs, and baseball fields with swastikas drawn in the dirt at a Champlin playground.
Nationally, Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis were desecrated with headstones being knocked over, and swastikas etched into cars in Miami Beach.
I’d like to say that I don’t know how we got here. But who are we kidding here? We know. He lives and works (at least part of the week) at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. The people perpetrating these acts didn’t just become anti-Semitic since Election Day, but the results of the election – and the campaign that preceded it – have given these people the platform to do this.
In the beginning of his address to a joint session of congress, the president strongly condemned the threats: “Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
The words on Tuesday night were great. But why did it take weeks for the president to make any statement condemning this? Or then tell Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro – and other state attorneys general – that, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad.” That’s right: The president thinks we’re doing this to ourselves. Which, incidentally, is also something the Anti-Defamation League says that neo-Nazis are posting on their online forums.
This started during the campaign. The idea of putting “America First,” as our president said he would do. But that slogan has a past. The Anti-Defamation League, last April, asked Trump to stop using it because of its “its anti-Semitic use in the months before Pearl Harbor by a group of prominent Americans seeking to keep the nation out of World War II.
“The most noteworthy leader of the ‘America First Committee’ was Charles Lindbergh, who sympathized with the Nazis and whose rhetoric was characterized by anti-Semitism and offensive stereotypes, including assertions that Jews posed a threat to the U.S. because of their influence in motion pictures, radio, the press, and the government.”
Then there’s Breitbart, the media organization formerly run by the president’s senior counselor, Steve Bannon, which is a platform used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, also called the “alt-right.” This man has the ear of the president, which may explain two things: 1) Why the mention of Jews was omitted from the White House’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement (this is how Holocaust denial works), and 2) Why the president shouts down people who question why he hasn’t spoken out more forcefully against the people who perpetrate them. It only took four waves of bomb threats and a desecrated cemetery before he said anything.
And why haven’t the Jews who voted for the president pushed him on this more? What will it take: An ACTUAL bomb in a JCC? YOUR parent’s headstone broken and tossed to the ground? What’s your breaking point? Because the threats aren’t theoretical; they are real. We don’t get to say “Not in my backyard.” This happened IN our backyard. Your kids, or the kids of friends, or your parents or grandparents had to get whisked away from one of the JCCs.
So what are we going to do about it? What’s our plan? For starters, demand accountability of our elected officials. St. Louis Park resident Andrea Nadel started a petition on Change.org that will be sent to a number of state and local officials. The ADL has started its own petition to help force a response from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
This is not outrage for outrage sake. You want to tell me I’m wrong? Go for it. TC Jewfolk is happy to give you the platform to do so. We want to hear from you. Your community wants to hear from you. Go ahead and own your vote. The president’s words were great, but until he puts into action a real plan that protects American Jews from these acts of terror, the words are empty.