Friday, July 28, 2006

Someone just shot up the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. As of this moment, the official word is that five people were wounded and a sixth killed in the attack. The gunman is an American citizen, Muslim from the Tri-Cities (that's the area around the Hanford nuclear reservation, about 250 miles from Seattle). Police still have the area, about four miles from my house, locked down while they make sure there are no other gunmen or victims. By the time there are more details, I'm sure it will be well covered on the national news and you won't need me to tell you what's happening.

When 9/11 happened, my first thoughts were that I hoped was animal rights nuts, the Welsh, or anyone except Arabs. I knew that, if Arabs had done it, it would unleash the very ugliest in Americans. And I was right. I first heard about today's events minutes after they began. I had just climbed on the shuttle from where I work to where I park and one of the other riders saw the breaking headline on his Blackberry. He read the headlines (mostly rumors) to the van as they emerged. The driver muttered that the whole world was crazy and punctuated it with "frickin' Arabs." Yes, he really said frickin'. I secretly hoped it was the neo-Nazis, who have been using the anti-immigrant hysteria to raise their visibility around here. Clever wife met me at the parking lot. When I told her what was going on she said, "Please let it be the Nazis." They say old married people eventually think alike.

So far the first rumors on the shooter are that he is of Pakistani ancestry. That's not Arab, but I'm sure my more easily panicked fellow citizens won't make that distinction. After 9/11 and the first anti-Muslim attacks, some idiot attacked the most visible mosque in Seattle, not far from my home. Fortunately, it was at night, no one was in the mosque, and the attacker was too drunk to do any serious damage. After that, one of the Catholic lay groups sent over a squad of little old ladies to guard the mosque. The Catholic ladies set up a table outside the front door of the mosque and stayed through the coldest and wettest days of the Seattle winter. Really, nothing could have been a better deterrent to the aspiring heroes in the war of civilizations.

I'm not sure how effective an old hippie pacifist would be, but if they need me, I'll take a shift at the mosque. I've often been told I look like a rabbi. Maybe I can put that work protecting my fellow citizens from my other fellow citizens.

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