Over the past week, our country has been subjected to an unprecedented wave of violence.
One violent actor, a mentally disturbed extremist, sent explosive materials to a dozen political leaders, clearly intending to intimidate if not actually harm them.
Another armed assailant first attempted to enter a black church in Louisville before going to a grocery store and randomly shooting two African Americans to death. “Whites don’t kill whites,” the shooter told a white man who confronted him.
Finally, on Saturday, a heavily armed man with a major presence on a white nationalist website entered a Pittsburgh synagogue during a worship service and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring 6 more. He told law-enforcement officials arresting him that he wanted “all Jews to die.”
These acts, in themselves, have made me sick at heart in a way I have never been before. But what has made them all unspeakably worse has been that they appear to be a part of something bigger than the three individual actors behind them — they are part of a wave of political, racist and anti-Semitic hatred that has accelerated in the past couple of years and swept across our national community.
Let us be clear: A democratic culture has room for vigorous, even heated debate over opposing political views — but that only makes us contenders in the political marketplace, not mortal enemies in a battle between good and evil.
Let us be clear: One of the principles that has made our country great has been our mutual respect for the right of our neighbors to worship — or not worship — as they see fit, according to the dictates of their own hearts and minds. We are not obliged to take up our neighbor’s religious views as our own, but we are required to defend their right to those views with every ounce of strength at our command.
Let us be clear: We are a nation of many peoples from many parts of the world and many different cultures — and, as our national motto proclaims, e pluribus unum: from those many, we become one.
We are, in the words of our national pledge, “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” and we must all defend each of our neighbors, no matter where they come from.
Our goal is a nation where all have equal rights to be themselves, and all have an obligation to respect others.
We call upon all our leaders, all our fellow citizens, and all members of the Wagner College community to recommit themselves to America’s founding values, chief among them being the self-evident truth that all people are created equal and must be treated as such.
Not just those who agree with us.
Not just those with the same skin color as ours.
Not just those who worship as we do.