Post-Pittsburgh: “We Will Rebuild”

By Rich Harwood

On Saturday, I didn’t move an inch from my couch from the morning until midnight as I watched in horror the unfolding scenes from Pittsburgh. As a practicing Jew, I feel a bottomless sorrow; as a devoted American, I feel emboldened. As a person who cares deeply about the health of our nation, I feel we must act.

The events of last week give us all pause. They strike fear into our hearts. They make us tremble. 12 bombs being sent to American leaders. 11 congregants slaughtered in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Two African Americans in Kentucky gunned down at a grocery store after the killer failed to gain entry into an African American church.

Our country is at odds. Everywhere we turn, people are aggrieved. Rather than acknowledge one another, we keep raising the volume of our voices and talking past one another. Meanwhile, so many of our leaders endlessly stoke our fears as they dangerously pursue their own narrow agendas—failing to care for our common good.

We can argue all day over policy debates. If only that was our challenge. Today something much more profound ails us. We have lost sight of one another; in turn, we have lost sight of ourselves. The result is that we are ceding our common space and shared values to hatemongers, demagogues and political hacks.

I believe that we Americans—people of all faiths, of all creeds, of all heritages, ethnicities and races—face a fundamental choice. We can allow our society to descend further into a destructive divisiveness or we can create those things we share in common and get to work building upon them.

Our history is filled with stains on our civic fabric. Today, we are being called once more to see these stains, acknowledge them, erase them—but never forget them. Amid my sorrow, I am emboldened as an American because we are builders of a more perfect union. We may never get it exactly right, but we must not stop trying. We can do this.

Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto said it best this weekend. “We will rebuild,” he declared in response to the massacre. I wept and wept as I listened to him. He’s right. Pittsburgh will rebuild; we will rebuild. That’s what we Americans do.

I do not believe for a moment that our national political leaders will be the ones who show us the way forward. We will: you, me and other people of goodwill. By coming together in our local communities, we can restore a sense of dignity, hope and community in our lives. And we can hold our national leaders accountable and demand conduct that reflects the best in us, not the worst.

There is any number of steps we must take to get on a more hopeful path. I will leave discussing those for another day. On this day, with a heavy heart, I simply ask you to recommit yourself to see and hear all those around you—and in doing so, to once more hear the quiet whispers within yourself about who you—and we—want to be.