Howard Fineman has been around for a long time. He has reported and commented on American politics for decades. He grew up in Pittsburgh, in the very synagogue which was the site yesterday of yet another mass shooting. He writes in today's New York Times:
I was taught in Squirrel Hill that we were in the one country that was an exception to the history of the human race in general and the Jews in particular. Founded on Enlightenment principles of individuality, freedom, tolerance and justice, the United States was the only place besides Israel where Jews could live at one with their nation, unburdened by fear or confusion about identity.
Now I must wonder: If Pittsburgh isn’t safe for Jews, if Squirrel Hill isn’t safe, if the Tree of Life isn’t safe, what place is? Without diminishing anyone else’s suffering and death, it’s a sad fact that the Jews often are the canaries in the coal mine of social and political collapse. So, what does the bloodshed in the Tree of Life mean?
Hatred is spreading like small pox -- in the United States and around the world. And Donald Trump revels in the fact that he's hosting the virus:
President Trump’s remorselessly cynical, jungle-style vision of how to conduct business and politics is ripping apart a society already under the stress of generational, demographic, technological, economic and social change.
In physics, the arc of a swinging pendulum diminishes over time. That has been my perhaps too-comfortable view of American history: that the swing of our political pendulum would always slow and find an equilibrium closer to a more perfect union.
In pursuit of that theory, as a reporter in Kentucky for six years and later across the country for decades, I chronicled the rise of the populist right as just another swing of the pendulum.
I covered Ku Klux Klan rallies, court-ordered busing, “dirty tricksters” of the right from Richard Nixon to Paul Manafort, and Trump rallies across the country. None of that shook my belief that the country could somehow harvest the energy of protest against “elites” for some eventual good.
Now I am not so sure. The pendulum seems to be swinging more wildly and widely every day. The whole machinery feels in danger of racing out of control.
We've seen what happens when the virus takes hold -- in the Middle East, in Bosnia. Now it's getting closer and closer to home. Everyone's civic health is in danger.