On Saturday, October 28, a gunman open fired in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Though the shooter was doubtless deranged before receiving any influence from external sources, many are connecting his actions with rhetoric from President Trump leading up to the midterm elections. Trump has floated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the past, claiming as recently as this week that billionaire George Soros may be responsible for financing the caravan of migrants, currently in Central America, seeking eventual asylum in the United States.
With 11 people killed, the shooting at Tree of Life marks the most deadly anti-Semitic attack in American history. When a friend of Twitter user Scott Hechinger boarded a plane and saw a man was wearing his “Make America Great Again” hat, the entire context of the situation and the hatred faced by minorities in our nation forced her to speak out:
My friend flying to be w/ her family after synagogue killings gave this note to a man on her flight w/ a MAGA hat. He read it all. “A lot of people on the plane were upset, angry, & scared when they saw your hat. To us, your hat sanctions our death, our murder, our evisceration.” pic.twitter.com/fHuNrnFiLW— Vote. The disenfranchised can’t. (@ScottHech) November 1, 2018
The note begins:
“Dear Sir in the Pretty Red Hat,
“My name is Merissa and I am sitting a few rows behind you. I am in Los Angeles because my family lives here. We are Jewish. We survived the Holocaust. My family members were murdered in gas chambers—all of them except the 5 that lived. So here I am, on a plane with you. As my father says, we were born with anguish.”
She goes on:
“I flew to Los Angeles because 11 Jews over 55 years old were shot + killed during prayer. After they were shot I couldn’t stop crying. I was afraid. I didn’t want to be alone.
“Our president blamed Saturday’s killing spree on the synagogue. He said if they had an armed guard it would have been fine. Do you have an armed guard when you pray? God should be safe to convene with, right?”
I always make the mistake of reading the comments on posts like this looking for understanding or at least humanity. Instead I find gaslighting and bigotry. I feel what your friend said sir, and I hope that she is ok. I hope that are country will be too.— Breanne Celesta (@BreanneCelesta) November 1, 2018
Merissa finishes by addressing the man’s hat:
“A lot of people were upset, angry, + scared on the plane when they saw your hat. For you, I want to assume it’s about politics, economics + the support of a charismatic man. I wonder if you mean to scare black people, Jews, + immigrants? To us your hat sanctions our death, our murder, our evisceration. Because your hat supports a man who does little to help us + so much to fuel hatred, violence + cruelty.
“I love you. I hope your good America does not include flushing me + my people out.”
A gentle note written by a Jewish woman to a MAGA wearing red hat on an airplane called " sanctimonious" by Trump Nationalist @LouderwCrowder. There simply is no way to talk with these people. https://t.co/o3zUIzIZ2B— Acuff (@AcuffBrose) November 2, 2018
Many conservatives online are mocking the note, believing its point was to tell the hat-wearer that she thought he was going to commit some sort of terrorist act.
First of all, the note was an obvious social media stunt in the same vein as “My 5yo just asked me...”— Mike Tyworth (@mtyworth) November 1, 2018
But even if legit, the idea that some rando guy on a plane wearing a MAGA hat is a threat that makes people scared is insane.
What will You do if you get on and see a MAGA hat on someone ? Will you jump overboard? I’m sure you will be just as terrified as your friend who wrote the note to that guy on the plane. The fact that you publicized that note is embarrassing, yet you have no idea.— TheAmishTerp (@TheAmishTerp) November 1, 2018
A careful reading of the note reveals that’s not what it was about at all. The author did at one point say the hat scares her and wondered whether its intent was to scare minorities, but it caused her fear not because she thought the man would commit any violent acts. In her mind, the hat represented unwavering support for a President who has been complicit in many acts of violence through his hateful rhetoric and failure to condemn violence.
"Learn to ❤. Your fear will not save you. xoxoThe Majority" = a note I left inside an old white man's MAGA hat on the plane— Jess Goldschmidt (@jessgoldschmidt) February 14, 2017
This should be on front page of every newspaper !— Denise Keirstead (@DeniseKeirstea1) November 2, 2018
Fortunately, others saw the beauty in her message.
That's a very powerful message that your friend has— Adam Lightner (@adam_lightner) November 2, 2018
The first three responses I saw were from accounts 4 years or so old with 5-12 followers and mocking, ridiculing.— Bloc Liars & Abusers (@nestedlog) November 2, 2018
They thought it was powerful.
So do I.
Thanks 4 sharing & give a hug 2 your friend 4 me. I rarely read comments b/c of the evil that follows any sincere expression of pain but unfortunately I did. The heartless RT will never accept responsibility 4 their choice that has inspired heinous evil deeds. Except 4 a few.— biglove (@bigdaddybiglove) November 2, 2018
History will show us where the good people stood during these times.
And then everyone on the airplane clapped— Chris Chavez (@thatChrisChavez) November 2, 2018