UPinion: The Canary in the Coal Mine

By A J Sidransky

Trinity Cemetery Washington Heights

(Photo: Briana E. Heard)

Shortly after the massacre that occurred last week at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Led Black asked me to write a piece about my thoughts relative to this terrible tragedy. I have to say for starters, that I am so disturbed about what happened that it has taken me five days to be able to sit down and write about it. That’s a lot of disturbed.

I am so upset and overwhelmed by the massacre, that I am considering whether I can continue to live in the land in which I was born. Though many of you may find this surprising, I never felt very American. I am the grandchild of four European-born Jewish immigrants. Three of my four grandparents lost nearly their entire families to the Holocaust. Those relatives number more than 100 souls. I am named for two of my maternal grandfather’s brothers, both of whom were murdered in Auschwitz.

I am also old enough to have experienced anti-Semitism myself. As a teenager in the 1970’s, living in Trumbull, Connecticut, my Jewish identity was enough to make me ‘the other’ to many of my schoolmates, one of them even signing my yearbook, “To the nicest Jew I’ve ever met.” So, the attack on Tree of Life has me scared, angry and thinking what possibilities exist for me and my family if the time comes that we have to leave. You know there’s an old Jewish joke about why Jews always wear their hats. The punchline is, “because we never know when we will have to leave in a hurry.” And before I continue, let me say to my Jewish brethren, you may think that the Republican Party is our friend. Clearly, not. Understand, they prefer the voting support of those who would murder you, while taking your donations. Wake up.

With that said, let’s take a look at everything that happened last week. Two African-Americans were executed in a Kruger’s parking lot in Kentucky, because the shooter, a white man, was unable to gain entrance to an African-American church to shoot it up. Then fourteen pipe-bombs were mailed in a mass assassination attempt to the leadership of the political opposition, the Democratic Party. Then the White House, that means Trump, issued a policy to try to make transgender people legally invisible. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue, by a rabid, crazed anti-Semite, who claims he doesn’t support Trump because Trump isn’t far enough to the right for him and surrounds himself with Jews. Yeah, right. In addition, the gunman believed that George Soros, himself a survivor of the Holocaust, was behind the so called ‘caravan’ of desperate Central Americans—they speak Spanish but are really hiding middle-eastern terrorists among them—to destabilize our country. Trump regularly uses the same material in his performances. What a week.

Clearly, this is not normal. So, why then is the attack on Jewish Americans any different or any worse than the violence and hatred we have seen against African-Americans, Muslim-Americans, all Muslims, all Latinos, all LGBTQ people, etc.? Unlike other types of race hatred, modern anti-Semitism is not only a matter of ethnicity, it is built on a conspiracy theory, and it is directed at a group, Jewish-Americans, that has been incredibly successful at achieving and integrating into American society. Therefore, the far right can view this as a trial balloon. If we can get away with this with the Jews, imagine what we can do with everyone else.

Now, we on the left, all of us, are very fond of challenging each other as to who has experienced the greatest catastrophe, who has suffered the worst discrimination. It’s not a contest and we need to stop doing that. Each tragedy, each massacre, each injustice, stands on its own and is equally as terrible. We need to learn from each tragedy.

One of the signature characteristics of both the far-right and the Trumpists is an overwhelming belief in conspiracy theories, and how those conspiracies play into their victimhood. As I mentioned, modern anti-Semitism is based on a conspiracy theory, that the Jews worldwide maintain a secret conspiracy of world domination and use their money to promote that domination. Hence, Bernie Sanders, the Socialist, and George Soros, the Capitalist, are in league with each other to dominate and destroy the white race. The current term for this conspiracy is ‘globalism,’ and its participants are ‘globalists.’ Well, first of all, I can tell you that if all 18+ million Jews worldwide were privy to this conspiracy it wouldn’t remain a secret for too long. Second, no one had ever contacted me to get involved.

The inherent danger here, more than the potential for additional violence against Jewish-Americans, is the enabling of the far-right through Trump’s lack of proper response by denouncing American Nazism to step up their venomous attacks, on anyone and everyone. Nazis march with Klansmen. They know how well organized the Jewish community is in this country. And now they think they can defeat us. They now believe they have friends in high places, which ‘trumps’ our organization and influence. What next? Well that’s obvious. It happened this week. Trump claiming, he can amend the constitution with an executive order, banning birthright citizenship. It’s a non-stop reality show, only the reality show is really a horror movie. Last week the Jews, and this week back to Latinos.

What is the answer? We need to organize, support each other and most importantly,VOTE! Not voting is what got us here. I don’t care how much you didn’t like Hilary. I didn’t either, but I voted. I came to a realization a few months back, I don’t remember which outrage triggered it, there have been too many. I can’t be the victim my ancestors were in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. At the same time, I also can’t be the German who turned his eyes away from what the Nazis did to his neighbors. I realize now, I don’t have the second option, even if I wanted it, because I’m on the enemies list too.

I can do one of two things. I can leave, or I can try to help stop what’s happened to this country. So, with that said, while we should all weep for all victims, and we should feel personally attacked when our particular group is the target, let’s join hands and stop this now, before it’s too late.

Get out there Tuesday. Vote. And more importantly, if you have family or friends in critical swing states or districts, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania, make sure they do too!

Now, I feel American.

A J Sidransky is a novelist. He lives in Washington Heights. He can be found at www.ajsidransky.com. He has a new book, The Interpreter, coming out in 2019.


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