It’s foolish to hope for any sort of measured or nuanced response from Donald Trump, but his thoughtless, knee-jerk, all-too-predictable immediate demand that the man accused of killing 11 people in a synagogue during Shabbat services last weekend be charged with the death penalty did nothing but inflame emotions and further poison our sick and violent society.
As DPF President Mike Farrell said, “A president who refuses to recognize his own responsibility for encouraging violence on the part of his devotees now adds insult to injury by calling for more violence: the death penalty.”
Robert Bowers is accused of killing eight men and three women, and injuring two others, in addition to four police officers. He is facing 29 federal counts, including two hate crimes, making him eligible for the death penalty. Trump, of course, has made his feelings known, and the federal prosecutor for the Western District of Pennsylvania is already pursuing approval from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to charge Bowers with capital crimes.
It’s all so predictable, and so terribly disheartening. Innocent victims, lives shattered, another mass shooting that leaves the country sick and frightened. And the all-too predictable response: we will kill the person who did this. In his public prayer the day after the shooting, Pope Francis said “All of us are wounded by this inhuman act of violence,” and asked God “to help us to extinguish the flames of hatred that develop in our societies.” Is there anyone who can logically argue that by killing the suspect in this terrible crime we will be helping to “extinguish the flames of hatred”?