Monday, 29 October 2018

Society disintegrates

I wore a jacket this morning for the first time since about last March. It’s funny: I’ve not really noticed Autumn creeping in this year. I haven’t been for nearly enough walks on the heath and the tree outside our kitchen window is always the last to shed its leaves. It was back-lit by the sun this morning and looked lush and tropical. It might have been the height of summer. But, when I stepped outside, there was a distinct chill in the air.

Of course my jacket made me sweat profusely on the crowded underground, which seemed even more crowded than usual this morning. I find myself going very still and withdrawn during my morning commutes. I’ve found it’s best to pretend you don’t exist when things get stressful!

Shul went by without too many hitches on Saturday. That said, on one occasion, we sang a long and somewhat elaborate Amen rather brutally out of tune. I don’t think any of us knew how to remedy the problem, so we all adjusted our tuning in different directions, which meant, as the Amen continued, it became more and more catastrophic. Ah! The joys of singing unaccompanied!

It was Saturday night before I found out what had happened in the synagogue in Pittsburgh. It took me a long time to process the information, largely, I suspect, because there’s still something in me that doesn’t understand anti-semitism and, as a result, don’t quite believe that someone could hate Jewish people enough to do something so grotesquely inhuman. Knowing that he chose a baby-naming ceremony and that an elderly married couple and a 97-year-old holocaust survivor were among the people killed reenforces my belief that there’s a disconnect in society at the moment. The dual-headed beasts of Trump and Brexit have legitimised these extreme, xenophobic views. Listening to Trump blithely describing himself as a Nationalist was chilling in the extreme. “It’s an old-fashioned word,” he said, “which doesn’t get used any more.” More chilling, of course, are the faces in the crowds at his rallies, gurning and grinning like he’s the answer to their prayers. Not a thought between their ears.

Of course, the terrifying thing is that these sorts of attacks have the nasty habit of generating copycats. The shooting at my school when I was 14 was a direct response to the Hungerford massacre. I can guarantee that there will be someone out there, bolstered by Trump or Brexit - or possibly even Corbyn - who believes some convoluted, nonsensical conspiracy theory about Jewish people and decides to have a pop. Of course he may have similarly bizarre views about another minority group. He may not attack a synagogue. He might choose a mosque. A gay bar. A women’s refuge. The frightening thing is that it’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when” and “where.”

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