Pittsburgh is the last place I expected to see a white supremacist, anti-semitic-rooted attack.
We’ve spent a lot of time in and around Pittsburgh, having lived nearby for three years and having a daughter and her family living there for more than a decade.
It’s a town rich in culture and ethnic neighborhoods with a highly diverse population.
While roughly two-thirds of the population is “white,” that divides down to 20 percent German, 15 percent Irish, 12 percent Italian and 9 percent Polish. Over 4 percent of the populations is Asian and 25 percent is African-American. Pittsburgh also is home to the nation’s largest Croatian community and fifth-largest Ukrainian population.
If I had to imagine where an attack like the one Saturday on the Tree of Life Synagogue would occur, Pittsburgh would not be on my list.
Most Pittsburghers are descendants of immigrants; hard-working, freedom-loving and very proud of their ethnic roots. So, a dark-hearted individual who hated the fact that this congregation was involved in assisting immigrants doesn’t seem to fit into the Pittsburgh landscape.
But as we have seen too many times, hate may be cultivated in the hearts of men and women no matter where they live, and triggered by communication platforms that find fertile soil in all parts of America, including right here in Bismarck.
I confronted such a bigot when I was called to our front office several months ago. An increase in his subscription price somehow triggered hate speech targeted at Native Americans and African-Americans. I have no idea how the price related to the targets of his wrath, but that’s the way it seems to be with these deranged individuals; they see connections where none exists except in their head.
Sadly, he isn’t alone. A friend related to me a recent experience while campaigning in Bismarck. In short, the occupant of the home said he would like to take members of a certain group out behind his house and shoot them.
I don’t know if either of these men would ever act on their bias. Certainly not everyone who engages in hateful speech takes it to the next level.
But what we know after seeing these events play out far too many times is that the people who were closest to the killers may have noticed that they acted strangely but they never expected they would kill, until they did.
I don’t know how we preempt the radicalization process, but I am confident that it must become a “front burner” issue in our country, and yes, even in Bismarck.