Chainsaws on BART, Racism in SF and 11 Lives Taken
We have a couple local stories this week that dive into racism and chainsaws, but there is no way we can avoid discussing what happened Saturday. Today, the people of Pittsburgh are our people, our neighbors.
BART and chainsaws don’t mix
We’ve all seen a lot during our BART travels: fist fights, dancers, people messing themselves, drunken moms after girls’ night, seizures, couples in the throws of new love and couples arguing their way to divorce. What we haven’t seen, until now, is chainsaws. A 47-year-old man by the name of Patrick Bingham brandished not one, but two chainsaws on a Richmond-bound BART train Monday. One woman recorded the incident on her phone as Bingham threatened to cut passengers’ heads off and calling himself the “BART massacre.” He was confronted by officers at the Lake Merritt Station in Oakland and is now sitting in a Santa Rita Jail cell where chainsaws are definitely on the list of prohibited contraband. Bingham was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
Racism is alive at San Francisco construction sites
The SF Examiner reports that four African American men are suing Clark Construction Group for what they claim is a “racially hostile work environment.” In the lawsuit, it is claimed that racial epithets were written all over the bathrooms and soap dispensers were filled with feces. You may recall another story from earlier this year when nooses and hanging black dolls were found at another site managed by the same company. The scene included a written note about killing two specific black men and used the N word, which cleared up any misunderstanding about their intentions and beliefs. The lawsuit alleges several incidents at the 150 Van Ness Ave. and 250 Howard Street sites, both under the supervision of Clark Construction Group, a national, large-scale company that will now have to answer for a culture of racism in court.
It’s just really all about the Warriors, the same ones Warriors who whooped on the Pelicans Wednesday night with a final score of 131-121. They’ve spent the past week basically showing off, with Steph and Klay breaking records in their wake like it’s easy. Curry dropped a season-high 51 points in 31 minutes during the Oct. 24 game against the Wizards, but Thompson outdid everyone with 14 3-point shots in one game against Chicago Monday night, breaking the NBA record previously held by…wait for it…Steph Curry, of course. Golden State is simply on fire this season and hopefully that makes up for all the poo butt feelings about other unnamed Bay Area teams.
National news, ad nauseam
Speed round: The president declared that places of worship should be strapped to protect themselves. Trump also sent military troops to the border to stave off a group of traveling refugees he refers to as “invaders” – the caravan is still 1,000 miles away and traveling on foot with elders and children in-toe. Jacob Wohl, a super right man-child and incessant Twitter troll, was caught red-handed in a scheme to set up Robert Mueller by bribing women to make up stories about sexual misconduct – apparently, authorities caught on when a phone number used by his made-up organization was traced back to his mommy. The devout “Christian” Attorney General Jeff Sessions was inconvenienced Monday when two religious leaders called him out during a speech in Boston, not with vulgar language or protest signs, but with bible verses referring to Christ’s preference for caring for those in need – he called the incident an “attack” and had the religious men removed.
A country mourns
Saturday morning, during Shabbat, a man stormed into the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with two firearms and one mission. Inside the congregation of faithful and during a baby boy’s bris, he yelled about wanting to kill all the Jews and then proceeded to murder 11 people and injured others, including four law enforcement officers who were trying to stop him. The rabbi had done what he could to help get people out before having to hide for his own safety. Ducked down, he listened to the shots being fired, forced to listen to members of his congregation die violently – the shooter filled with the same hate that has haunted Jewish people for far too long. All 11 victims were elders with acute awareness of the dangers of anti-Semitic vitriol. Between them, they shared over 800 years of life history that was wiped out in a matter of just a few minutes. In the blink of an eye, unfounded hate took 11 lives.
It was hate fueled by a right-wing extremist conspiracy theory that the Jews are financing the caravan of immigrants to come and destroy white America. It’s the crazy and frightening inevitable result of a country increasingly divided to the point of violence. What happened Saturday did not come about in a vacuum, but those festering archaic ideologies have found a voice in today’s rhetoric and the lives lost are nothing less than casualties of an unnecessary and man-made culture war. These people will be forever held up as examples of what can happen when we become the worst versions of ourselves, but today it’s important that we remember them for the people they were, as members of their families and community, as human beings who were taken too soon.
It was two brothers, Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were described as “ambassadors” in the community, as beautiful souls and infectious laughs. It was Irving Younger, the 69-year-old man and self-appointed greeter at temple and coffee shops. It was Melvin Wax, 87, who loved the Pittsburgh Pirates just a little less than he loved his grandson. It was the 97-year-old bubbe Rose Mallinger, who everyone expected to live to at least 100 with her sharp wit and humor still in tact. It was Bernice and Sylvan Simon, the married couple in their 80s who died together, just as they had lived for over 60 years. It was Jerry Rabinowitz, the doctor who was known to HIV patients as a man of compassion, caring for them with bare hands when it was still considered dangerous to do so. It was Joyce Feinberg, the beloved and brilliant 75-year-old University of Pittsburgh researcher who lost her husband to cancer two years ago. It was the local dentist, Richard Gottfried, 65, who also devoted time to helping interfaith couples prepare for marriage. It was 71-year-old Daniel Stein who was described as a simple and loving man with a dry humor.
The suspect walked into court Thursday morning and pleaded not guilty to 44 federal charges, including 11 charges of murder – prosecutors are looking for approval to seek the death penalty, and that’s all I’m willing to say about that man today. Discussion about the shooter should not take up all the air in the room as families continue to hold funeral services for the dead.
Bay Area residents, like those around the country, have joined in mourning and vigil for what is now the deadliest anti-Semitic attack on U.S. soil. In San Francisco, Temple Emanu-El was packed Sunday for an interfaith gathering and hundreds gather to grieve in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum and a night vigil was held in Oakland at Lake Merritt. This is not a national story, this is a human story and the light that comes of this is the unity it has caused in defiance of a hateful division. In these times, we need to remember to love our neighbors…every single one of every shade and every faith. That is the only path out of this darkness.
My only suggestion for your time off this week is to spend it with those you love, to show some love to a stranger and to prepare yourself to vote in the most important midterm election in modern history. As the ballots are cast five days from now, remember to vote with your heart for those who actually have some. We have the power to change this, don’t take that lightly. Until then…
Good night, and good luck.