Synagogue Shooting in Pittsburgh Requires A Timeout From Writing About Football

10/28/2018: Normally I write about football every Monday and Friday--but the events of this weekend require a Time Out for things that are far more important....

"This is a case where if they had an armed guard inside they may have been able to stop him immediately, maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him maybe.” --President Trump 10/27/2018

317 years ago today William Penn’s Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges established an idea of religious freedom in this new colony. He had come to the new world to flee religious intolerance and to worship free from the threat of persecution and violence.

Now the President of the United States suggests that perhaps some should have armed guards in our houses of worship. Pennsylvania was founded so that we would not have to live in a world like that.

Have we really fallen backwards three centuries? Are we a nation so barbaric and divided that our answer to everything is to arm ourselves for everyday living?

What follows is not a debate on guns because before anyone decides to walk the path of bigoted murder, something drives them there.

America’s problem begins with the poisonous rhetoric of our times, for hate-based violence in this nation is a fuse ignited in the mind.

Should we be surprised by the shooting in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh? Not really.

Just a little over a year ago men bearing torches marched in Charlottesville chanting “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” The next day a man ran his car through a crowd of people injuring many and killing Heather Heyer. In 2012 a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin was shot up. In 2015 a man walked into a Black Church in Charleston, South Carolina and began shooting and killing people.

Regardless of where you fall on the debate about guns, this much is irrefutable: a loaded gun is almost always pointed at another human being for one of two reasons: self-defense driven by the human instinct for survival or as an aggressive expression of power fueled by hate.

Before we have any meaningful debate over guns in society we have to have a debate over truth, and facts and the condemnation of people spreading lies—yes LIES—to further an agenda to gain power.

A battle for facts must include condemnation of phony conspiracy theories pushed by fringe elements and either promoted or allowed to grow by politicians. While some of us laugh them off as crackpots, these “truths” become fervently held beliefs for some when ignored and allowed to spread on social media.

The seeds of hate-filled lies sow discord in the fertile ground of angry people believing the perceived injustices in their lives were imposed by the “other”—“those” people who live, look or worship differently. Words of division provide ammunition in an ever escalating war that too often escalates to violence.

Certainly some will rebuke this line of reasoning by citing our nation’s Freedom of Speech. But our rights are not absolute and require a responsibility to use them in a way that does not incite violence or mass carnage.

We should look within ourselves and ask what we have done with our right to free speech.

Have we helped promote understanding to drive darkness from the hearts of men and women? Or have we given voice to that hate? Have we excused or ignored divisive or careless rhetoric that pitches us into competing and exclusionary racial or religious camps? Have we excused the voices of those dividing us for power by a belief that only our views, only our claims to some mantle o