Thoughts On A Horrific Weekend

Thoughts on the Tree of Life synagogue shooting shares by top blogger, Design Mom

Thoughts on the Tree of Life synagogue shooting shares by top blogger, Design Mom

Hello from Wednesday morning in Sydney. I hope you’re doing well. Here are some of the thoughts I had on the airplane as we crossed the ocean.

On the cold-blooded murder of two black people in a Kroger grocery story:
I can’t stop thinking about this. Did you see the video of the white witness? He said the killer didn’t kill him because the killer said: Whites don’t kill whites. The whole thing made me retch.

While I’m aware racism is an everyday fact in our country, it seems like sometimes racist people aren’t aware of how racist they are. Have you heard the story about the fish not knowing what water is? It’s like racism is so pervasive in our society, that they’ve never seen life without it, so they don’t recognize it. They might act in ways that are racist, but if you called them racist, they would be deeply offended.

I think that’s true for many Trump supporters — they don’t see themselves as racist, even though they are acting in racist ways by supporting a racist president. (My take? Despite their protests to the contrary, I don’t think someone can embrace Trump without embracing racism.) It takes a long time for some people to see that not-white people in our country have a different lived experience than white people.

But these Kruger murders were so intentional. So openly racist. The killer was actively seeking out and killing black people. Total strangers. Clearly, the killer didn’t try and hide his racism, or deny it. He wants to kill black people. Why? Because of the color of their skin.

It feels like more of this is coming, and I’m unclear how to stop it.

On the murder of 11 Jewish people worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh: 
I mean. I know anti-semitism exists, and that there has been a resurgence of it since Trump’s election. And yet, I somehow still find it unfathomable that antisemitism actually exists. Did the anti-semites, the nazis, not grow up with the same textbooks that I did? Did they not learn about the concentration camps and the ovens?

I know the history of D-Day and the Allies landing in Normandy fairly well. I’ve spent many hours at the burial grounds of the soldiers who fought to free the occupied territories. I’ve heard the stories, from people who lived it, of what it was like to see the American tanks roll into their little towns and realize the war was over. The Nazis had fallen. When we know how many people sacrificed their lives, how could anyone in America take the Nazi’s side?

I don’t pretend to know much about Judaism as a religion or as a culture — I probably know as much as any average non-Jewish American; stuff I’ve picked up from movies, books, and TV. But there’s an alternate timeline where ‘Jewish’ would be one of my primary identifiers. My grandmother was Jewish. Much of my dad’s side of the family is Jewish. DNA testing tells me and my siblings we’re 31% Ashkenazi Jew — which means my Grandpa was also partly Jewish. I’ve been told that in Europe during WWII if your Grandmother was Jewish that meant you were considered Jewish too — and you would be sent to the concentration camps accordingly.

For 2018, does the same metric apply? Am I Jewish enough that there are people who hate me for my Jewishness?

On both horrors being tied up with our country’s gun violence epidemic. If you’ve been reading Design Mom for awhile, you already know I’ve lost all patience with discussions about guns. The Kroger killer, the Tree of Life Synagogue killer, neither should have had access to guns.

If the gun owners who I’ve defended in the past — like the deer hunters I grew up with — are unwilling to fight, vocally and publicly, for reasonable, effective gun laws, then I could care less if their guns are taken from them. In February I wrote a post titled It’s Too Late. You’ve Lost Your Guns. All these months later, and still, every single day, angry white men find the post and leave horrible comments calling me a c*nt or a b*tch and telling me how dumb I am. I erase the comments as soon as I see them. But even with the attacks, I stand by every thing I wrote.

If you tell me you need a gun to defend yourself, I will roll my eyes and assume you have your head in the sand, because the statistics on how dangerous it is to have a gun in your home are well known and well-published. If you haven’t seen them, it’s because you’ve actively avoided seeing them.

Get rid of your damn guns. Support gun-sense candidates. Make it known in playgroup circles and PTA groups that you would never let your kids play at a house, or babysit at a house where there are guns.

I read this on Twitter:

We can’t go to the movies
We can’t go to church
We can’t go to synagogue
We can’t go to a mosque
We can’t go to a concert
We can’t go to school
We can’t go to work
So we have to go to the polls.

On the harmful propaganda about the refugee caravan. We’re sending troops? Why in the world? The only thing that would make sense is if we were sending to troops to feed the caravan. To assist them. To keep them safe. To care for them. These are refugees who have lost everything. They are no threat to us. They simply need help.

Combat the propaganda when you see it. Here’s a southern journalist on caravan fear-mongering

I encourage you to create a #votingsquad this week. Make a group text or Instagram group DM or Facebook group message with at least five people. They can be local friends, or they can live far across the country. Check in with each other. Are each of you registered to vote? If not, is in-person registration available? Does each member of the group know where their polling station is? Have they seen a sample ballot? Do they know which issues to study up on ahead of time, or where to find that info? What time is everyone in your group going to vote? Does anyone need a ride or other assistance? Remind each to bring I.D. or other materials just in case. Check in with each other once you’ve voted too so you can send virtual high-fives.

We’ve got one week to go. If you’re unclear on who to vote for, err on the side of blue. Our government is off-balance, and voting blue will help correct that.

I know how hard many of you are working on the mid-term elections. I see your block-walking. I see your phone-banking. I see your discussions and debates. I see you using your platforms, big or small, to amplify the voices of the candidates you care about. I see you and I’m grateful for you. 


I realize I don’t have anything new to add to these conversations, but I’d love to offer my comment section to anyone who needs it. Do you need to vent? Is there a news item that happened recently that you don’t see people talking about? Do you need to explore your thoughts? Do you have links to helpful essays or commentary you’ve read in relation to the topics above? Please share.

P.S. — If you’re thinking about both-sides-ing this stuff, don’t. Sure there are crappy people on both sides of the political aisle, but being vocal with a political leader in a restaurant is not the same as bomb threats. We’re not seeing Maxine-Waters-inspired bombs sent to Republican leaders. We’re only seeing Trump-inspired bombs and Trump-inspired murders. Antisemitic and racist violence in the U.S. is a right wing phenomenon and the vast majority of antisemitic and racist abuse online comes from right-wing spheres.


Photo by Gene J. Puskar for AP, from the Washington Examiner.

50 thoughts on “Thoughts On A Horrific Weekend”

  1. As a Jew and a mother of four, I am horrified and frightened that my kids are growing up in a world where anti-semitism not only exists, but appears to be on the rise.

  2. Hi there! Thanks for writing about these hard things. As a Pittsburgh resident, just wanted to make sure you know there’s an H on the end of the city’s name. Thanks, Gabrielle!

  3. Completely agree. I pride myself on being really informed but I can’t seem to make myself to turn on the news this week. I can’t take it anymore. I wasn’t even surprised to hear about Pittsburgh. How awful is that? It has to end. Your voting squad idea is perfect. Also, I think you would appreciate this podcast. First time I’ve been on a podcast and I hope lots of moms see/hear it!

  4. I have been reading for a while and never commented. I just want to say how grateful I am for your work and your posts and to acknowledge how hard it must be to post when you know the negative things people might(will) say. If we are truly advocates and allies, we must commit to speaking, especially when it is hard to do so. You are setting an example. Thank you.

    1. I must agree with this too. I realize you have a platform that is far more powerful than mine. I don’t even really have a blog. I just realize that it is not easy to step up and write such important words to advocate for women, immigrants, minorities, and all religions. I don’t understand the excuse that one person can make to completely disregard the 1st amendment in the United States. Then use the 2nd amendment to commit their hate crime. I just really really get overwhelmed by it all. Thank you for being a voice. We need more voices just like yours. So when you are discouraged I want you to know that you are right. So keep it up!

  5. I’m a regular reader and I don’t normally comment, but I have to say bravo! Thank you for this fantastic take on the horrors of the past week and what we can do about it. Please keep it up!

  6. I’m some who has always believed in voting and the political process and only missed one primary election. Even when I lived abroad I voted. But, you know what, this president, this congress, and this political craze is making me not want to vote. For years, I’ve done my part, i had the hope, I’ve knocked on doors, encouraged others to go to the polls as a good citizen and where has it gotten us. Here. This is where we are. I might be done. I might skip this midterm. I might just give up believing that getting more people to vote is the answer.

    1. This is such a familiar feeling, and I ache for you, friend. It’s so hard to put in all the extra effort and have this to show for it, right? I just have to tell myself that I may seem like one insignificant vote among so many single insignificant votes, but they all DO count. My one not-vote would be like a single cancer cell in this huge, vulnerable organism of a country. I have to do my part to keep the sickness at bay, and so do you. It really does take every one of us.

    2. Sara, I don’t want to pile on, because I can tell you take voting seriously. So I’m going to say what I think when I hear that it’s hopeless to vote, or someone isn’t inspired by the candidates. If you can’t vote FOR something, vote AGAINST something. Sure, it might be the hold-your-nose, vote for the lesser of two evils kind of thing that leads to this apathy you’re feeling, but it’s my belief that if we can’t make something better this time, we at least have a responsibility to keep it from getting worse. Just imagine if all the people who felt uninspired by Hilary, couldn’t stomach voting for Trump so they just stayed home had just voted AGAINST Trump. Just imagine what you can do. I don’t know what state you live in, but Trump won the electoral vote by a minuscule amount. You can make a difference.

      1. I hear both of you and I will vote. In my county, Hillary lost by less than one percent in 2016 and in that case, it was folks who wrote in Bernie instead of voting for Hillary. At least where I am, it’s now those people telling me I MUST vote. I believe that we should have more than a two-party system, but gosh, it grates me. Anyway, thanks for the kind words.

  7. Thank you for putting into words what seems like a pack of moths flying around in my brain. It seems like everyday, I experience a moment where I’m just flummoxed at some person’s denial or ignorance or stubbornness about the current political situation. Yesterday it was a woman who refused to believe that Trump had made fun of a handicapped reporter. I’m realizing that often times it is simply a refusal to believe one’s viewpoint is incorrect and people just double down on the lie in order to protect themselves. It’s very disheartening because, really, where do you go from there?

    1. I just wanted to add that I voted early today and it felt great. By the afternoon there was a huge line of voters (almost all university students) and that was heartening.

  8. Heather Schaffer

    Also if people don’t like being lumped in with racists, bombers, nazi’s, etc. in their Republican Party, then boot them out of your party! Don’t make your party a friendly and safe space for people like that to exist! Please! Don’t tolerate hate!

    1. Agreed 100%. I used to vote GOP until the Party went absolutely nuts. I blame R voters who are complicit/in denial than the raving conspiracy theorists/racists. IF YOU VOTE FOR A PARTY THAT IS RACIST AND DON’t HOLD THEM TO ACCOUNT THEN YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. It’s as simple as that. If you read political strategist Rick Wilson’s book “Everything Trump Touches Dies”, he explains how GOP operates fed the beast of R racism and ignorance to gin up votes, and the monster got away from them. It’s both fascinating and infuriating.

  9. I can’t shake feeling anxious about the safety of my own family after the shooting in Pittsburgh. My kids go to a Jewish school (which is also the site of a synagogue), and my husband works at a Jewish school. I had to send my whole heart off on Monday knowing that they are at a higher risk but there is nothing I can do about it. It’s all so heart breaking.

  10. There’s a reason my husband, who had been a registered Republican since age 18, left the Republican Party when Trump became the official candidate: he gave up on voting for the reasonable, moderate Republicans because there were none anymore. There are no two sides of this, as you said— not when one side embraces white supremacy and xenophobia.

    1. Comments like this are encouraging to me – it’s so hard to know whether there’s ANYONE out there taking action like this.

    2. I used to think that straight-ticket voting was so stupid. I thought, even if you’re a hardliner for one party, it’s still worth it to consider each candidate separately, and weigh their positions. I grew up in a Republican household and voted Republican for most of my life. Two years ago I became an Independent. Tomorrow, I will go to the voting booth and do something I never thought in a million years would be possible: I will vote straight-ticket Democrat.

      Someone has to stand up to these people. Someone has to stop this madness. I will do my part to turn the Congress as blue as possible so someone will have the power to stand up to Trump.

      I used to be a Republican. Tomorrow I will vote for every Democratic candidate on the ballot. Donald Trump did that.

  11. To Sara, above— there was voter suppression in my native Northern Ireland decades ago (heck, there may still be now, but it was open back then), aimed at suppressing the vote of the Catholic minority. One of my mother’s earliest memories was of her father leading a march for voting rights. When we moved to the US, I was a child, but I grew up with the understanding that I have the right and the responsibility to vote, and that I needed to always vote, to never take it for granted. I work with a lot of recent immigrants, and I’m voting for their rights too, because I’m a naturalized citizen and I can. I will not let the attempts at suppression and the Russian interference prevent me from voting. People have fought too hard for this right for us to let it go. I really, really hope you vote.

  12. Thank you so much for this. It is incredible how you manage to take so many ideas and funnel them into powerful statements.

    I had forgotten about your long flight and was obviously eagerly awaiting your voice.

    Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your no BS stance. Thank you for your love of humanity.

  13. Gabby, I really love how you lay out that the majority of the problematic behaviour is coming from Republicans. I feel like so many of us are used to mincing words about this in the interest of fairness, or politeness, or in the interest of seeming too partisan. But it’s the truth. Republican supporters are shooting people. A Republican sent those pipe bombs. If you’re supporting Republicans, you’re supporting a movement that spreads hate and racism and division. Let’s say it. Let’s repeat it.

  14. Gabrielle, I wish you safe travels, and an amazing time in Sydney sharing your inspiring voice. Thank you thank you thank you for your bravery in using your platform. I really admire your civil courage.
    For the rest of us, this is the home stretch and we have to keep our spirits up and keep fighting until the mid-terms. Wearing us out and disgusting us is part of the normalisation of cruelty which has taken root so quickly in this country, and we have to fight at least one more week.
    I have already voted by mail!

  15. I agree with you on every single point. Thank you for writing the words I can’t seem to come up with. Your voice is important and I’m so glad you are still writing.

  16. I feel like sometimes good people of the Republican Party just couldn’t get past abortion rights and so they continued to vote Republican in hopes that boat will return to the dock. The trouble with this thinking is that they believe so much in this one issue they vote to allow themselves to be bent and manipulated into allowing so many more injustices *while feeling comfortable* with it. People who never before felt prejudice and bias do now in regard to ->race, religion, the poor, personal agency/choice, prison reform (WHY do we have for profit prisons?), immigration (WHY do we allow for profit immigration detention/prison?), healthcare (AGAIN! WHY FOR PROFIT healthcare?), equal opportunity education (FOR PROFIT!), and a host of other “Christlike” attributes applied to political policy which go completely against everything Christ taught.

    Any one issue has led to the downfall of so many Republican voters, who have indeed been blindsided, many willingly, by evil men in sheep’s clothing, who conspire to raise the elite 1% by keeping the rest of us in false hopes of being one of them “someday”.
    God help us all, and remember that God helps those who help themselves.


    1. You described this so well. I have deep Evangelical roots, and you are 100% correct in that most church-going Ev voters think of abortion and little else. I know many, many people that think this way. There is no nuance for them. A fertilized egg is the same as a child to them. I don’t want to discount the sacredness of life, but to me, I am not going to distill my vote down to fertilized eggs. Little thought is given by Ev voters about policies that affect toddlers living in poverty. The disconnect drives me insane. But it’s not surprise—I’m in my early 40’s, and the obsession with abortion has been going on since before I was three. It’s all they have talked about my entire life. Unfortunately, being single-issue voters has led them to ignore ALL other issues, even the supposed importance of character, which they used to go on and and on about. Am I beyond disgusted and disappointed? YES.

  17. I live in Alabama and so it is pretty much a sure bet that my blue vote will be swallowed in a sea of red. It is discouraging and it is overwhelming – and when I feel like there is no point, I remember my daughter, who was in 3rd grade when Barack Obama ran for President in 2008 and how every day she endured taunting from her 3rd grade teacher because she stoically stuck to her guns and wouldn’t change her vote. And how on the day of the election, as we drove through our neighborhood to her school, past a sea of McCain yard signs and she said, “It doesn’t look like Mr. Obama will win.” and then she said, “That is okay, I am going to do those things that Mr. Obama wants to do – I will do it even if he doesn’t become our President.” Her determination and hope, in the face of what looked overwhelming, spurs me on. We can continue to speak out and talk and walk and vote – and if at the end of the day nothing much changed, we get up and do it again.

  18. On the topic of gun control, this stood out to me from the NPR article on the Kroger shootings: “Bush has a lengthy criminal record, including being convicted of domestic assault for punching his father in the face and lifting his mother by her neck. His convictions did not prevent him from legally owning firearms.”

  19. I understand the frustration and sense of hopelessness people are facing. But I was saying to my husband just yesterday that although the Republicans may try to roll back progress and they may even succeed for a while, the genie is out of the bottle and eventually they’re going to be overwhelmed by the demographic changes in this country.

    Vote, Vote, VOTE!

  20. One thing I very much notice every time I’m in Australia is that I relax in public spaces, knowing that non-rancher gun ownership is illegal. If you haven’t noticed it yet, do. It is a breath of much-needed relief and fresh air. I *always* hate to leave and come back to the States where you never know who around you is packing heat. I love Oz so much, for so many reasons, and this is for sure one of them.

  21. I’m an American Jew, who grew up in the former Soviet Union. I work for the Jewish community and am on the board of my congregation. It’s unbelievable to me that in 2018 we seem to be living in the same situation my parents fled when we left Russia.

  22. Hi Gabby! I would love if you would take a look at this Instagram. They are 2 orthodox women who run a clothing brand for very hip modest women (I believe they have plenty of Muslim and Mormon clients as well.) I applaud you for starting the dialogue with with bringing attention to both Judaism and Antisemitism (you wouldn’t believe the amount of outrage I see that forget those 2 important words.) However Jews have experienced horrific violence for centuries. If you take a look at Mimumaxi’s Instastories (they are saved) it will explain much better than I can why using the violence that has always been aimed at Jews for your own agenda is not being an ally. On that note, I started following MimuMaxi this week because of a dialogue that was started on Rachel Cargle’s Instagram, I think we could all learn a lot from her as well.

  23. “And yet, I somehow still find it unfathomable that antisemitism actually exists. Did the anti-semites, the nazis, not grow up with the same textbooks that I did? Did they not learn about the concentration camps and the ovens?”

    They may not have, especially young people in middle school & high school, where anti-Semitic incients have risen dramatically in recent years (as well as in society at large).

    US students are not necessarily being taught about the Holocaust or much of WWII before high school. In our public middle school, there is no study of modern history. The 6th, 7th, 8th grade history/social studies units cover ancient world history and no modern history. In 8th grade, the students do read “Night” by Elie Wiesel as part of their ELA class (English) without ever having studied the atrocities of WWII. Many of the students in my son’s 8th grade class did not even know about the Holocaust prior to reading the book. Horrifying.

    In high school, 9th grade history covers 300 C.E. to 1775. Finally, in 10th grade they study 1775-present. Yet by then many students have already been exposed to and drawn to Nazi ideas/symbols/images online & via social media.

    Young people (and people of all ages) have access to hate-groups/white supremacists/Nazis and their propaganda in ways that weren’t possible years ago thanks to the internet.

    “The number of anti-Semitic incidents across the country is rising, and in schools, incidents such as verbal insults or graffiti with swastikas have also increased, Chalkbeat notes, citing a 2017 audit from the Anti-Defamation League that said schools surpassed public places as the spots with the most anti-Semitic incidents.”

    If you think these incidents aren’t happening in your state, Google “anti-semitism in [your state] schools”. Or view the Anti-Defamation League’s website has a H.E.A.T. map (Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism & Terrorism) map tracking reported incidents throughout the US.

  24. I truly thank you for your words and really appreciate that you spoke openly about antisemitism. I was the one who DMed you on Instagram about speaking up. I agree with what you said but you are missing a piece of the puzzle and that is something I am truly confronted with this week.
    Antisemitism lives and flourishes on the left in feminist and progressive circles, (I’m a feminist and progressive) but it’s coded. In order to receive support as a Jew, I need to denounce Israel as an oppressor which makes the support conditional and makes many Jewish women feel unsafe to talk about it.

  25. I have felt such anger towards this president. i don’t even like thinking he is the president. it feels all like a bad dream. The head of my younger son’s school wrote in an email this week: “We are the stewards of humanism. It is our obligation to teach this next generation the strength and beauty of diversity. We will care for the emotional health of our children, and stand as engaged citizens.” I feel like we all need to teach this president about how to be human.

  26. Gabby, when I see your political posts, I do this: read, nod, scroll; read, nod, scroll; read, nod, scroll. You always put words so perfectly to the way I’m feeling. Thank you for continuing to speak up.

  27. Thank you for this post today. I commented yesterday that I had come to your blog looking for this kind of calm and compassionate discussion and was sorry not to find it. Many. many people obviously need this kind of outlet and community so thank you, thank you, thank you for providing it.

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