ELLSWORTH — “Give peace a chance.” It’s a mantra for most every religion and was a refrain for the Beatles. But what are the chances after a week of hate crimes?
A mass shooting, this time at a Pittsburgh synagogue, left 11 worshipers dead on Saturday.
Two African-Americans were killed while shopping at a grocery store on Oct. 24. Authorities are investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
Cesar Sayoc Jr. of Florida, charged with sending pipe bombs to prominent Democrats through the mail last week, described himself as “a white supremacist who dislikes gays, African-Americans, Jews and anybody who isn’t white.”
Coincidentally, the Down East Family YMCA child care program last week paraded through downtown Ellsworth with messages of kindness. The parade’s focus was on anti-bullying but the message resonated more broadly after a week of violence.
Hancock County residents shared their thoughts on where we go from here.
“A lot of what I hear is these things don’t affect us here,” said Pastor Gary Brinn of the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill. “One of things I said Sunday morning is these things are very personal.”
Brinn said he is gay. His former roommate at Harvard Divinity School is a rabbi in Pennsylvania. His family members adopted two African-American babies this year.
“These three perpetrators last week were calling for the deaths of blacks, gays and Jews,” Brinn said.
The First Congregational Church of Blue Hill is holding a special service Friday at 5 p.m called Psalms of Lamentation and Hope to coincide with the start of the Jewish Sabbath.
“There are good people in different political parties,” Brinn said in a sermon to his congregation Sunday. “But there are not good people on both sides when it comes to hate. God is love. The gospel is love. Love is the greatest commandment.”
William Rhine of East Blue Hill said, “For me, personally, I’m drawing a line in terms of my own behavior and what I know to be right and wrong. I’ve got to be that much more vigilant about how I treat people.
“There has been a collective lack of focus from so many of us. And I’m sure I’m absolutely part of it that says we want to revel in the hypocrisy of the other side,” Rhine said. “All that does is alienate things further. Trying to prove history is on your side or it didn’t get bad until those guys did it first.
“I feel like we’ve gotten to a point now where it’s impossible to have discourse about so many of these issues.”
Rhine is a member of Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor.
“I’ll be there on Saturday and I’ll be there with [teenage sons] Max and Caleb,” Rhine said. “I’d like to say I’ll feel safe there, but I won’t.”
For Gary Friedmann, chairman of the Bar Harbor Town Council and a member of Congregation Beth El in Bangor, enough is enough.
Friedmann recalled news reports that the synagogue shooter was wielding an automatic assault rifle and it took a handful of men in SWAT gear to take him down.
“Our gun laws are just stupid and we’re one of the few countries that allow citizens to own assault rifles,” Friedmann said. “That’s just got to stop.
“It’s time to seek some leadership on this and put the NRA in its place,” Friedmann said. “This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. This is insanity.”
Friedmann said President Trump bears some responsibility for the Pittsburgh violence.
“He’s built his own political career on divisiveness and, I think, racism. Racists who are anti-Semitic feel emboldened by Trump.”