An Open Letter To The Pittsburgh First Responders
And Lessons We Can Learn From the Different Reactions of Trump and Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto
To all First Responders, everywhere; to all EMS, Firefighters, Police Officers, Paramedics, etc.,
Thank you. Thank you for your tireless, selfless, sacrificial work.
The last two days in Pittsburgh are something most of us can never imagine, although I have to admit, the pervasive feeling that it could happen in any of our own communities seems to grow stronger with each passing day. Most of us can only imagine that what you’ve experienced this weekend has been extremely stressful on you and your loved ones.
You are the ones who, in the earliest stages of emergency situations, provide necessary support services. You’re the ones who are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment. Thank you.
Heartfelt condolences to the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue victims, their families, friends, and community. There’s no way to know exactly what to say to folks who are living this unimaginable nightmare, the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the United States. I can only say that I pray each of your lives are blessed with some measure of solace — anything that brings you a bit of peace, no matter how small — throughout the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Know that the country mourns with you for yet another senseless tragedy. Violence is never the answer.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke of the effort that was put in across multi-jurisdictions — from the federal, to the state, to the county, to the local — and how that effort was something we should all be proud of. The fact that they were able to work together as one community speaks to the leadership and professionalism of everyone involved.
Peduto also spoke of suburban medics who came in, responding voluntarily, to take on different areas of the city because all the local medics were working at the scene of the crime. He spoke of medics who, on their day off, decided to voluntarily come in to fill 7 additional ambulances, and to back up their officers. He spoke of the officers who came from surrounding counties, the federal agents, state troopers, and county officers who all worked together, in order to make sure this horrific event was able to at least be somehow lessened. It was because of their coordination and their sacrifice, knowing the danger they willingly put themselves in to protect others, that the community could take some semblance of comfort.
On the actions of a deranged individual with animus towards a specific community, who brought three glock handguns, an AR-15, and a semi-automatic rifle into a synagogue hosting three separate congregations in services, and murdered 11 innocent people, Peduto said, “We’re dealing with irrational behavior. There is no way that you can rationalize a person walking into a synagogue during services and taking the lives of eleven people.”
The Mayor also stated that as a society, we know we are better than this. That those who seek to divide us will lose. That violent hatred does not have a place anywhere in the United States.
And yet it goes without saying, whether we like it or not, the President of the United States sets the tone for the nation’s political discourse — not the media. At the very least, the President serves as the amplifier, the voice carrying the most weight and authority. And right now, the one who has created this new tone in American politics happens to also be a former “reality” TV actor, a business con-man/snake oil salesman who was frequently sued (3,500 times at the time of his Presidential campaign), and currently, whether he’s a “criminal subject” or not, Trump is still under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury. These things are all above and beyond how far he has lowered the bar for political discourse in this country.
This new political tone of Trump is one where public discourse — about American institutions like the free press, or about his political opponents — has reached a caustic, corrosive low. We simply cannot run away from the fact that the leader of our nation has weaponized politics, has attached names and faces to his bullying agenda, and has emboldened those who hate in silence to come out of hiding.
On the way to his two rallies yesterday, the President stopped in front of Air Force One to take a few questions from reporters. He was asked about revisiting gun laws in light of this tragedy. His response was, “Well again, this has little to do with it. If you take a look, if they had protection inside, the results would’ve been far better… if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple… uh… maybe it could’ve been a very much different situation. They didn’t.”
He continued, “It’s a violence, it’s — you look at the violence all over the world, I mean the world has violence, the world is a violent world — and you think when you’re over it, it just sort of goes away, but then it comes back in the form of a madman, a… a wacko.”
The President offered his take on a solution, that, “we should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty.” He mentioned his frustration with lawyers getting involved and death row inmates having to wait years and years to die. “I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue,” he continued, making odd use of the word “vogue,” a word more modernly reserved for ‘popular; in fashion.’
He then continued, “Anybody that does a thing like this to innocent people that are in temple, or in church — we had the, so many incidents with churches — uh, they should be, they should really suffer the ultimate price. They should pay the ultimate price. I’ve felt that way for a long time, some people disagree with me, I can’t imagine why, but, uh, this has to stop.”
When a reporter reminded Trump how he’d met with the NRA towards the beginning of his Presidency and said he could maybe be the person who could help solve this, and asked if he sees that now as a possibility, Trump answered, “Well, it is a case where — and again, nobody knows exactly what took place yet, it’s too soon — but this is a case where, if they had an armed guard inside, they might’ve been able to stop him immediately. So this would be a case for if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would’ve been able to stop him, maybe there would’ve been nobody killed except for him, frankly.”
The reporter asked him if he thought that all churches and synagogues should have armed guards. He responded, “I hate to think of it that way, I will say that. I hate to think of it that way.”
“Is that what you’re suggesting sir?” asked reporters.
Trump answered, “No, it’s certainly an option. I mean in this world, this is a world with a lot of problems, and it has been a world with a lot of problems for many years, many, many years, and you could say, frankly, for many centuries, I mean you look at what goes on. But, certainly you want protection. And, they didn’t have any protection. They had a maniac walk in, and they didn’t have any protection and that is just so sad to see. So sad to see. The results could’ve been much better.”
When a reporter reminded Trump how he’d met with the NRA towards the beginning of his Presidency and said he could maybe be the person to help solve this, and was asked if he sees that now as a possibility, Trump answered, “Well, it is a case where — and again, nobody knows exactly what took place yet, it’s too soon — but this is a case where, if they had an armed guard inside, they might’ve been able to stop him immediately. So this would be a case for if there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would’ve been able to stop him, maybe there would’ve been nobody killed except for him, frankly.”
During the press conference this morning, Mayor Peduto was asked specifically about the President’s remarks. Peduto said, “We shouldn’t be trying to find ways to minimize the dangers that occur from irrational behavior. We should be working to eliminate irrational behavior and the empowerment of people who would seek to cause this type of carnage from continuing. I think the approach that we need to be looking at is how we take the guns, which is the common denominator of every mass shooting in America, out of the hands of those who are looking to express hatred through murder.”
He also noted, “The outpouring of love and support for Pittsburgh is incredibly appreciated during this time. And there is a commonality throughout the world of people who have had enough of this type of hate… There is an outpouring that is being heard, through the people of Pittsburgh right now, of where people want to see society move towards, and it is not about finding ways to divide us. It is about finding ways that unite us through our commonality as humans.”
The responses from two different men on the same atrocity could not have been more different. President Donald Trump looked backwards at hypotheticals, “should’ves” and “what if” scenarios. Mayor Bill Peduto spoke of a city, and a world, where people seek not to look backwards, but to problem-solve, both in the moment and for the future. The latter speaks to the ‘great’ America I want to see again. I think — and I hope — we can all agree on that.