I did not hear about the shootings outside the Jewish community center and assisted living facility in Overland Park, Kansas until this morning. Three people were killed (two of them, a boy and his grandfather were not Jewish). Authorities have a 73-year-old white supremacist and former KKK member in custody.
When I heard that the shootings had taken place in Kansas, I thought about my Dad (whose birthday it is today). In the early 1960s, he attended Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina which is about 175 miles west of Overland Park. Dad went from the Bronx to being one of two Jews enrolled at a Methodist school. He was welcomed with open arms and made many friendships which have lasted to this day. I mention this because anti-Semitism was the exception rather than the norm in Kansas 50 years ago and remains so to this day.
With that said while white supremacists might be small in number and not possess the sort of political clout they did half a century ago, they are nevertheless dangerous and prepared to kill as evidenced by yesterday’s events and the August 2012 shootings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which claimed the lives of six people.
As the suspect was being led away, he shouted “Heil Hitler!” I cannot help but wonder if this shooting would be getting less attention had the perpetrator had been Muslim and had shouted “Allahu Akbar!” as Nidal Malik Hasan did at Fort Hood in November 2009. Yesterday’s shooting is certainly getting more attention than the shooting at the El Al counter at LAX on the Fourth of July in 2002 (less than a year after the September 11th attacks) which claimed the lives of two people by an Egyptian Muslim angry at the Bush Administration’s pro-Israel policies. Although the perpetrator did not belong to a terrorist organization, the FBI and the Justice Department concluded the LAX shooting to be a terrorist attack.
Nevertheless, whatever the perpetrator’s identity, three people who were minding their own business have had their lives extinguished. At this point, I can only hope that the perpetrator’s life will soon be extinguished.