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Guest opinion

Rothschild: Are we up to the task of defeating poisonous ideology of white supremacy?

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild spoke to about 1,000 people gathered at the Jewish Community Center on Monday night for a vigil for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack. His remarks, as prepared for delivery:

The Tree of Life Synagogue has joined a growing fraternity.

The Sikh temple in Wisconsin—where, in 2012, a white supremacist gunman killed 6 and wounded 4.

The Jewish Community Center in Kansas—where, in 2014, a white supremacist gunman killed 3.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina—where, in 2015, a white supremacist gunman killed 9 and wounded 3.

The Grand Mosque of Quebec City in Quebec—where, in 2017, a white supremacist gunman killed 6 and wounded 19.

And now, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania—where, in 2018, a white supremacist gunman killed 11 and wounded 6.

Those killed were the faithful:

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  • Retired researcher Joyce Fienberg
  • Dentist Dr. Richard Gottfried
  • Mother and widow Rose Mallinger—her daughter is among the wounded
  • Physician Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz – a pioneer in the treatment of AIDS
  • Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal—sweet men in their 50s who lived together in an adult group home
  • Husband and wife Sylvan and Bernice Simon—killed where they were married more than 60 years ago
  • New grandfather Daniel Stein
  • Retired accountant Melvin Wax
  • Retired realtor Irving Younger

Among the wounded are four police officers—heroes credited with saving lives. They exemplify who we want to be as Americans. Selfless. Brave. Standing up for others—others we don’t even know, simply because they’re human.

These events challenge us as Americans. Bigotry, hate, and violence challenge us as Americans.

My father served in World War II to defeat Nazis and their poisonous ideology. Lately I’ve wondered if our generation is up to the same task.

Hate speech and gun violence are especially insidious. They exploit cherished freedoms. Freedom of speech. Freedom to bear arms. These freedoms are not—and were never intended to be—absolute.

Arizona has a hate crimes statute for felonies and Tucson has a hate crimes ordinance for misdemeanors. Both provide enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by hate, as evidenced by hate speech. There is no sanction for hate speech alone.

It will not be easy to address hate speech and gun violence. It will require leadership — real leadership — at the federal and state level.

It will also require recognition

  • that Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities are not the enemy
  • that ethnic and racial minorities are not the enemy
  • that refugees and immigrants are not the enemy
  • that women are not the enemy
  • that the press is not the enemy
  • —but that the poisonous ideology of white supremacy is the enemy. You cannot separate the ideology of hate from the violence it gives rise to.

After the assassination of President Kennedy, President Johnson urged the nation to “turn away from the apostles of bitterness and bigotry … and those who pour venom into our nation’s bloodstream.”

The antidote to that venom is communal action. Reaching out and getting to know those we see as different from us — and working together toward common goals. The antidote is commitment — to living the principles this country was founded on. The antidote is voting, and being informed. The antidote is recognizing the humanity in each other.

We recognize the humanity in all the victims of all these shootings. May their memories be a blessing.

Support TucsonSentinel.com today, because a smarter Tucson is a better Tucson!

Jonathan Rothschild is the mayor of Tucson.

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1 comment on this story

Oct 30, 2018, 1:46 pm
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In what was probably the most forceful speech he’s ever delivered, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild evoked tears from many — including from this cynical reporter, my wife Maria at my side, and another veteran journalist (Paul M. Ingram) who I noticed on the far side of the crowd wiping his eyes at the same moment I did: when the mayor spoke of Sylvan and Bernice Simon — and a growing roll of applause across the audience as he decried attacks on members of faith groups, ethnic and racial minorities, women and the press.

I don’t often praise politicians, but thank you, Jonathan. You represented our community well last night.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild speaking at a Monday vigil for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.


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