Whenever there is a major crime, there is always more to learn from it than the classic journalist questions consisting of the five W’s: what, who, when where, and why. We have to go beyond those initial questions and dig deeper. What we really need to know is how a thing like this happened in the first place. How do we prevent it from happening again? And how much progress are we really making?
CNN pondered the events of the past 72 hours. Any one of the events on any given day would have been big news. All three events occurring one day after the other is a pattern. And we can learn things from studying patterns. CNN begins by cataloging the events.
“Wednesday, a white man with a history of violence shot and killed two African-Americans, seemingly at random, at a Kentucky Kroger store following a failed attempt to barge into a black church.
After mail bombs were being sent to people who’d been criticized by the President, a suspect was arrested Friday — a man who had railed against Democrats and minorities with hate-filled messages online.
And Saturday morning, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people attending Jewish services.
Those three incidents in 72 hours shared one thing: hate.”
The first crime was simple white on black racism. We have seen it before. A lot. It is not new. But it does come at an interesting time, less than two weeks before midterm elections. The gunman wanted to shoot up a black church. He just couldn’t get in.
We were then hit with a package bomber who seemed to be motivated by hatred for a group rather than individuals. While his targets were political, he was not just an outspoken Trump supporter, but a white supremacist. It should be disturbing to all that his version of Republicanism is compatible with white supremacy.
Finally, antisemitism is alive and well. It is difficult to say whether an antisemite is motivated by race or religion. Either way, it is generalized hatred toward a specific group. Eleven people died as a result of the latest act of hatred against Jews.
We know the answers to the journalist’s questions. What we have yet to grapple with is how this sort of thing keeps happening, and why now. The synagogue shooter was not a Trump supporter. But we live in a time when hate groups seem to be emboldened. And people are more comfortable sharing their hate in public, on their vehicles, and on social media.
We see the signs of mental illness and hate more clearly than ever before. Yet we are powerless to stop these types of crimes from happening. How can we stop it? The Trump administration has proposed nothing by way of gun legislation. Each time one of these crimes occur, Trump insists all the louder that guns are not the problem. But he is quick to freely disperse thoughts and prayers. It is surely possible to add something else into the mix.
Finally, how far have we come? It is easy to think we are a long way from freedom marches and cries for equality. But this past 72 hours of hate-fueled terror remind us that there are a lot of angry, bigoted, hateful, and dangerous people walking around in plain sight ready, willing and able to do violence in the name of making America great again.
Elections are less than two weeks away. Not everything can be legislated. But we can do a better job at monitoring and caring for the mentally ill. We can do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. And we can create a stronger buffer between church and state that makes it clear that one religion is not given preference over another as far as the state is concerned.
Along with your thoughts and prayers, make your vote count this November 6.