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Things come in threes.  Just over a week ago the first of three hate incidents was committed at a Florida Kroger grocery store at which two black victims were killed.  Then a series of pipe bombs were mailed to prominent democrats, or so-called 'enemies' of President Trump.  Then, last Saturday 11 Jews were massacred in Pittsburgh. 

While much of the nation was shocked, how shocked, really, were we?  Because murdering blacks and Jews isn't new.  It's been happening for millennia.  In fact most ethnic or racial groups have been and continue to be routinely discriminated against, even middle aged white men, who are currently suffering a backlash from their own stereotype.  But some groups are singled out for murder.

Immediately after receiving his own pipe bomb Governor Andrew Cuomo hit the talk show circuit to chat about it.  And President Donald trump announced he would be coming to Pittsburgh to commiserate with the survivors.  Many news stories have made it about the politicians, and no doubt politicians are making it about themselves.  After all, the mid-term election is next Tuesday.  But it's really not about them.  It's about cultures that lead people to hate each other and do something nasty about it.

The Pittsburgh incident is the worst massacre of Jews in US history.  And it happened in our so-called enlightened era.

I loved listening to local Holocaust survivor Fred Voss tell Lansing students about his teenage years in the 1930s as a German Jew during the Holocaust.  He was part of Elie Wiesel's movement that believes that only by telling and retelling the story of what the Nazis did to Jews and other ethnic groups will future heinous acts be prevented.

But they have not been prevented.  Voss himself spoke out against the ethnic cleansing of close to 400,000 non-Arab Sudanese in Darfur and the displacement of over three million more.  Nothing has really changed.

The world is still a hateful place even as the 80th anniversary of the infamous Kristallnacht approaches on November 9th.  That was when thousands of jews were terrorozed by the Nazis, with 30,000 Jewish men taken to concentration camps from which most of them never emerged, and over 1,000 synagogues and more than 7,500 businesses owned by Jews were destroyed.

Most people know that at least 6 million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis during World War II, but there have been so many atrocities committed against Jews over the course of history that someone was moved to create a Wikipedia page documenting a Timeline of Anti-Semitism.  The timeline begins in 740 BC, and details massacre after massacre, among many other anti-Jewish acts.

Things were especially bad for Jews in the Middle Ages in Europe with Germany having more than its share of atrocities, but not standing alone in its persecution of Jews.  In 1190, for example, all the Jews in Norwich, England were slaughtered.  Also in England, King John imprisoned large numbers of Jews in 1210 until they paid 66,000 marks -- literally a royal ransom.  In 1217 Toulouse, France Jews were sent to jail because they refused to convert to Christianity.  They were released, but Jewish children up to six years old were taken away from their families and given to Christian families to raise in that faith.

The Holocaust was one of two major reasons Jews immigrated to America.  The other was to escape the reign of Czar Czar Nicholas I of Russia in the 1800s.  Being a Jew under Nicholas wasn't as charming as 'Fiddler on the Roof' might lead you to believe.

By the mid 1800s 2.4 million Jews were living in Russia and the countries it controlled.  Jews were required to be constricted into the Army, where they were supposed to become more Russian and less Jewish.  But young Jews knew that if they entered the army they likely would never come out alive, and that caused many to save their money to come to America with its promise of religious freedom and 'the American Dream' -- opportunities to work hard and do well and have a better life.

The Russian Revolution didn't improve anything for Russian Jews.  In the three years starting in 1918 it is estimated that between 30,000 and 70,000 Jews were killed in pogroms in the Ukraine with tens of thousands more extinguished in Poland and Belarus.

Paranoia is part of being raised Jewish.  Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say mistrust and cautiousness, because you're not paranoid if someone is really out to get you, right?

When I was a child I remember dinner at our kitchen table.  My father talked about how conditions in the United States were starting to be similar to those in Germany before the Holocaust, and that general indifference to  alarming acts and attitudes could lead to a similar atrocity here.  He said our family might move to Australia if things got too bad in the US.  Only a few days ago there were reports from Australia that antisemitism there is spreading.

We all know that giving Jews their own country led to wars and terrorism that there seems to be no hope of ending.  I used to wonder if Israel had been established in North Dakota whether it would have been more secure for Jews.  Now I think if Jews some day get their own planet, somebody or other will send a Death Star against it.

A lot of people are blaming President Trump for encouraging hate groups and crimes.  Whether he is or not, these things don't just start with one person.  Even if he were the embodiment of the Devil himself there has to be something in all of us -- that we should take responsibility for, think about, and resist -- that responds to our perception of a leader we think is sympathetic to hatred and killing of one group of people or another.  It is a sad commentary on all of us as human beings that this miserable frame of mind is part of human nature.

We like to believe we can overcome the parts of human nature that are unsavory, bad, or evil.  And we love to think of ourselves as enlightened.  And we love to spout homilies like Love thy neighbor' and 'Turn the other cheek'.  Words.  Religion-spawned genocide is a time-honored tradition on our planet.

Politics, too.  I saw a cartoon the other day in which a little girl sitting on Santa's lap asks him for a unicorn.  Santa urges her to come up with something more realistic, so she asks for people, Republicans and Democrats and all people to get along with each other.  Santa replies, "Do you want sparkles on your unicorn's horn?"

It's not a new joke.  Hatred isn't new either.  Actions speak louder than words, and, as these recent events have illustrated, it is clear that words have not made any difference whatsoever in well over three thousand years.

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