In a Dangerous Time
The murders at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday are unspeakable. Nevertheless, we must speak — to express our sadness, our outrage, as well as our compassion for the people and families of the historic Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Predictably the President responded by saying that the temple should have had armed guards or armed congregants — just as he has called for the arming of teachers in schools. See my earlier “Why Good Guns With Guns Is Stupid.”
Call this the NRA fantasy, except that we are very close to living in this gun-laced, arms-laden fantasy land. Armed guards in every public place. Everyone packing. Nothing sacred — no house of worship, no school, no hospital without guns. Some of us don’t want to live in a society like that.
Onetime speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, Peggy Noonan had an excellent column in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, written in the wake of week’s bombing threats but before the shootings in Pittsburgh.
Noonan called on politicians to defuse America’s explosive politics, to step back from the brink, to cool rhetoric and to speak respectfully of those they oppose.
She had two compelling observations about the President. One that he is really incapable of helping in such a dangerous situation. Here’s Noonan:
“As to the president . . . He will never lead effectively at moments like this because he can’t. It’s not within his emotional range or in his intellectual toolbox. The targets of the would-be bombs have been his antagonists. He’s not believable when he issues pained vows of unity. Everyone assumes his staff told him to do it and in a burst of amiability he did. When he’s obnoxious, people believe he’s speaking his mind.”
That’s a terrible but accurate realism. It is simply not in this President’s emotional range or intellectual toolbox to lead in such a dangerous time.
Noonan’s second observation is that a person who has been swathed in security and private limo’s all his adult life and doesn’t understand just how dangerous out situation is. Nor does he understand how many of the people egged on by his rhetoric at rallies are dangerously unstable.
“In a funny way he seems to think everything’s more stable than it is, that the veil between safety and surprise is thicker than it is. Maybe you assume everything’s safe when you’ve spent your whole adult life, as he has, with private security and private cars, surrounded by staff. Maybe that makes you careless, or too confident.”
Here final lines are haunting . . .
“But few of our political leaders seem especially sensitive to the precariousness of things. I wish they worried about the country more.”
“I wish they worried about the country more.” Are you listening Mitch McConnell? I call out McConnell not because of incendiary rhetoric, but something perhaps even worse, being the architect of dysfunction in our democracy.
Noonan is right. Too many are heedless about just how precarious our situation is as a nation, as a society. The Pennsylvania shootings are one more ringing of the alarm. Is anyone listening?
p.s. At Crosscut Knute Berger has a good piece that relates to all this and out it comes out of the fascist playbook for eroding and undermining a democracy.