In the aftermath of the tragic and evil shooting of United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, American Jewish news sources have entered the conversation by noting that Rep. Giffords is Jewish and that her attacker, Jared Lee Loughner, has associated with extremist hate groups. The suggestion: her tragedy is an act of anti-Semitism. I respectfully beg to differ.
Although everything in God’s world may unfold in ways that impact Jews, not everything arises from someone thinking about “The Jews.” Edward VIII did not abdicate the throne of England after ten months because he was infatuated with the chance to marry a woman who had divorced a Jew. (Wallace Simpson had divorced Ernest Aldrich Simpson. His father Ernest Louis Simpson had changed his surname from Solomon. Always the Jews.)
Jared Lee Loughner is a nut. He has earned by dint of his own merit the privilege of being deemed a 100% crackpot. Yes, he may have had an interface with a hate group whose name I choose not to publicize further, possibly because that group hates Latinos or African Americans or perhaps even people from a distant planet where Loughner perhaps thinks he once lived. (For that matter, perhaps his anger stems from a perception that he has friends living on Pluto, which has been stripped of its planet identity without its input.) Regardless, the search for truth and understanding is not helped by searching endlessly for a Jewish angle in every cockamamie and outlier news event.
Rep. Giffords is a Jew? Well, besides that, she apparently once encountered Loughner at a similar public function, where he asked her an irrational question, and she answered him by speaking in Spanish. Observers suggest that he may have hated her ever since. Irrespective of her religion, her politics, and how she voted on ObamaCare.
In the pursuit of finding the Jewish angle, we next are told that this maniac loved Mein Kampf. But he also loved Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Aesop’s Fables and Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. My mind can be persuaded otherwise, but I am not yet convinced that this tragedy is about any of the various media interest groups that fascinate journalists seeking a greater consciousness in the face of madness. It is not about the Tea Party any more than John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan because of frenzied Democrat rhetoric at the time demonizing Mr. Reagan. Rather, Hinckley wanted to impress a fictional movie character whom actress Jodi Foster portrayed in “Taxi Driver.”
The present maniac, Mr. Loughner, wanted to change the currency or English grammar. Really. It is like the murderer who assassinated former U.S. Representative Allard K. Lowenstein in his office in 1980 – he had been close to Lowenstein but became a paranoid-schizophrenic. Much as some people needed to find a Jewish angle in Lowenstein’s death, or blame the Republicans for prosecuting the Vietnam War in the face of Lowenstein’s principled objections, the bottom line was that he was murdered by a deranged man who thought Lowenstein was plotting against him.
Nor did Charles Manson’s extended family slaughter Sharon Tate because she was married to a Jewish filmmaker.
Representative Giffords’s mother, Gloria Fraser, was a Christian Scientist. In 2001, at age 31, Giffords joined a temple and began identifying with the paternal side of her ethnicity. The interesting thing, though, is that her Jewish paternal-line grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, changed the family surname to “Giffords” in order to hide their Jewish identity. Now, with Hornstein’s granddaughter tragically shot by a nut, certain journalists scamper to turn her tragedy into an act of anti-Semitism. It seems that some people can run, but they can’t hide.
Although Loughner may indeed have been motivated by anti-Jewish animus, I am skeptical. Give the crazy man his due – he is just plain insane.
Rabbi Dov Fischer, adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, is a columnist for several online magazines and is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County. He blogs at rabbidov.com