Rest easy, Montana. It can’t happen here. Mass shootings, racial hatred and bigotry are just “not Montana.”

Yet, I am terrified. In the upcoming 2020 election, I predict that there will be much more extensive bloodshed and deaths. America is in an incendiary, volatile state. The American government has collapsed and we, as a nation, are in a racial civil war analogous to 1861. There will be blood.

We can’t dodge the facts. Here in “nice” Montana, it is happening. In Whitefish, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch called The Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin’s behavior reprehensible and atrocious in telling his internet followers to unleash a “troll storm” on Jewish Tanya Gersh, her husband and her 12-year-old son in 2016. The judge awarded $14 million. I felt as if I were the Gershs’ 12-year-old son. That was me when I was that age, when my sister and I were stoned on the way to synagogue.

This winter persons placed anti-Semitic hate leaflets on cars in the parking lot at a University of Montana dorm, Miller Hall.

Montana has taken a national place for anti-Semitism with an article in Hadassah Magazine, a national publication, read worldwide. Whitefish is the hometown of an alt-right leader and white nationalist. A vocal supporter of the administration, this man made headlines a week after the election by delivering a speech at a neo-Nazi conference in Washington, D.C., that ended with him roaring, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

We have had some scares with students in Frenchtown and in Missoula showing up in local schools with guns. It can happen here. It is happening here.

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The fix, however, is not to be found in Congress. If we do not rebuild the American family structure from within, we may have passed the tipping point. We need financial resources — lots of funding — massive amounts of dedicated money for mental health care. We need more teaching about human values, social consciousness, morals, ethics and values in schools and everywhere else. Thee truths are universal and apolitical.

If we emphasize ethics and morals and social compassion in our families, and treat the mentally ill, all of this long before they get guns, this violence can be preempted.

As a Jew and as a community activist and leader, I have to speak out. I think the president was very wrong in not stopping the rally rant (last month, when a North Carolina crowd chanted "send her back"). His TV performance after these shootings lacked any true emotional content or sincerity. It seemed to me as if some opportunistic political adviser prodded him, “Don, you gotta go on TV.”

Wouldn’t it be tragic to accept that hate has become “the new normal?” Hate digests our souls like Drano. Hate is like taking poison, hoping that it will kill someone else. The hate-filled and racist conduct must be condemned. Bigotry, obstinate or intolerant devotion to one's own opinions and prejudices, is wrong. Speak out against this conduct.

This hate is a poisonous gas over the nation. It is literally killing us. I am first generation Polish. My father came to America in 1921 hoping for a better life and he found it. I know what “send her back” feels like. I heard it as a child and youth. I grew up in the atmosphere of anti-Semitic hate.

All the gun legislation will impact only some issues but if we create social consciousness with better families and treat the mentally ill, we can save America.

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Elliott B. Oppenheim, of Florence, holds medical doctor, juris doctor and master of health law degrees, and consults in criminal defense and medical malpractice litigation. He is Jewish and is a community activist.


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