We must look in mirror after latest shooting

On Sept. 11, 2001, I got up, went downstairs, put on a pot of coffee, turned on the TV — and watched our once safe country fall apart.
On the morning of Oct. 2, 2017, my routine was the same — except that I watched our country killing itself. This time, we don’t have foreigners to blame; we have one of our own.
The shooter holed himself up on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel, murdered more than 50, injured more than 500. An American shooting at Americans. Not a minority of any kind, unless you consider lovers of good old country music a minority.
What’s happened to us? We’re not a nation united any more.
But some say we’ve never been. We started separating ourselves from the natives who owned this land before us. As those early white settlers became our majority, they continued to separate themselves from others who came along later – those in flight from potato famines and pogroms, those unwillingly chained. Some newcomers fought their way up educationally and economically to become “almost” first-class citizens. But many who didn’t have been relegated to a virtually permanent underclass.
Then silently, almost without anyone noticing, that old white majority found itself becoming the minority. Over its years of “ownership,” it had been stomping on Blacks, Jews, immigrants — and it’s still trying to do the same. All these “others” have been maligned, marginalized, kept down, denied access. And those who’ve somehow managed to access anyway have either been held up as unusual individual successes or accused as groups of trying to take over the country.
But —  country music!  Why?  Basically, a middle-class white preference. A crowd shot at by one of its own!  I grew up with “Wabash Cannonball; I might have been there myself. What’s happened to us?
Today, almost everyone seems to hate or fear someone else.  Some who haven’t yet decided whom to hate make ISIS the symbol of threat.  But Pogo was right: “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”
I heard a doctor explain the old battlefield “triage” process: Walk among the victims, assessing each. Leave alone those who are so far gone that nothing can be done. Also leave alone those who can survive for a time without treatment. First help those in the middle. You save the ones you can; the others are war’s collateral. And this is our very own war. We must all somehow get in that middle, in order to save ourselves.
I stood with worldwide Jewry on the recent Day of Atonement. Having made my personal peace as best I could with those I somehow offended during the past year, I came to synagogue ready to ask Almighty God to forgive us as a people for whatever offenses we had committed against that Greater Power. And then I read this brief commentary accompanying  one of those penitential prayers: “We cannot imagine a different future unless we keep in mind our past…” We have no power unless as Americans together we confront our prejudices. Only a united population can make this a united country. We are all responsible for remembering our national past, admitting the sorry parts of it, and truly pledging to do better in the future. Removing statues will not let us forget our great national struggle with ourselves, no more than plowing under the killing sites after World War II — as some Germans actually wanted to do! — would have permanently buried the Holocaust.
Columbine High School. Sandy Hook Elementary School. Churches in Birmingham and Charleston. A baseball field outside Washington. An ordinary street corner in Dallas. A country music festival in Las Vegas. A grudge and a gun is all it takes.
If America can’t do this most difficult of all work, that of remembering and atoning, we will continue to kill. And be killed: not by ISIS, but by ourselves…

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