I know hate exists, but I will never cease to be shocked but its ferocity at times. When I heard of the recent firebombing of two synagogues in New Jersey, I was disturbed even further to learn that the suspect is from the town I currently live in, and that the synagogues are located in two nearby towns I know quite well. The close proximity of these attacks to where I live, and the hatred that fueled them reminds me that I don’t have to look overseas or in other areas of my country to discover people who are full of rage; they can be my neighbors.
When I saw pictures of the suspect, I was also struck at how non-descript he looks. He looks bored as he stands chained in an orange prison jumpsuit, and much older than his nineteen years. I have two cousins who are the same age, and they look and act nothing like the suspect to these heinous crimes. I sometimes wonder what factors led to someone stepping out of the law to indulge in violence that takes lives, or threatens to do so. Were they born with mental issues that lead them toward anti-social and then criminal behaviors, or did their environments influence their decisions to do ill? I tend to think that both create lone wolves or groups who revel in violence and hate speech. I shudder to think of gatherings of people united by hatred and expressing these feelings by words and actions, living near me and those I care about. I wish I could ignore their existence, but I cannot.
I will not let paranoia take over my life, but I am definitely more aware of people around me. Like millions of others who move in and out of New York City on a regular basis, I learned to be more alert after 9/11. This recent case of anti-Semitic violence reminds me of this even more, especially since it hit so much closer to home.