Weekly Democratic Address
November 2, 2018
Hi, I’m Mike Doyle and I have the privilege of representing the city of Pittsburgh in the United States Congress.
Pittsburgh is a big small city with some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. As a lifelong resident there, I can tell you that we take great pride in our city, and our sports teams!
One of the best neighborhoods in our city is Squirrel Hill. It’s the center of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, but it’s also a neighborhood where people of all races, colors, and faith traditions coexist in a friendly and peaceful atmosphere.
Last Saturday morning started like any other in this peaceful little neighborhood, and then something unimaginable happened. A shooter entered the Tree of Life Synagogue and brutally murdered 11 congregants, and wounded 4 police officers who confronted him as he was attempting to leave. This beautiful, friendly little neighborhood had now become the scene of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of our country.
We were in shock. Our hearts were broken. How could this happen here? But as we all know, this can happen anywhere.
In the midst of this darkest day in our history, rays of light began to shine through. Our first responders who ran towards the shooter to stop him and rescue and care for those still in the Synagogue. High school students who organized a vigil just hours after the attack that was attended by thousands. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists – every faith community in every neighborhood – standing shoulder to shoulder in support of their Jewish brothers and sisters. And the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, who throughout their history have had to confront anti-Semitism, saying loud and clear, “We will not let hate close this Synagogue. Hate and violence have no place here. Love will conquer hate.”
But it doesn’t end there.
Pittsburghers have been moved and comforted by the outpouring of love and support we have received from all over the country and around the world. Acts of kindness and generosity from people with no connection to Pittsburgh have touched our hearts and given us strength. On behalf of the people of Pittsburgh, I want to say thank you. We deeply appreciate the gestures of love and support we’ve received.
A dear friend of mine in the Jewish Community said to me, “This week, we mourn the loss of our friends and neighbors. Next week, we act.”
And act we must. Americans must get to work and be willing to confront the symptoms of this violence.
The first problem we need to address is the hate-filled language dominating our politics and public discourse. As Americans, we cherish our freedom of speech, but just because we can say something doesn’t mean that we should. I believe Americans in the public arena must tone down their rhetoric, exercise restraint, and treat those with different viewpoints with respect – because we’ve got to work our way through some difficult conversations.
This starts at the top, but all of us in public life need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Will we speak words that unite our country or divide it?”
We desperately need to talk about problems like prejudice, mental illness, and gun violence – but more importantly, we need to act.
For starters, we need a stronger public response to the hate speech on social media that demonizes others, reinforces prejudice, and very likely incites some individuals to violence. We all have a responsibility to speak up and condemn hate speech when we see it. Moreover, we have a responsibility to let law enforcement know if we think a crime is about to be committed.
We also need to do more to treat mental illness in this country. Of course, not everyone who commits a crime is mentally ill, and few Americans with mental health issues ever commit a violent act.
Nevertheless, in several deadly hate crimes over the last decades, the shooters suffered from mental illness. That shouldn’t be surprising. Mental health has historically been neglected and under-funded. This is the richest country in the world. Surely, we can afford to provide mental health care to our neighbors who need it. Put another way, can we afford not to?
And finally, we need to come together to reduce the gun violence that’s ripping our country apart. You would think that after all of the tragedies in Connecticut, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and now here in Pittsburgh, that Congress would finally come together to pass common-sense gun safety legislation.
The sad reality is that this Congress has done nothing to address gun violence in this country. Not a single one of the many bills introduced to combat gun violence has been allowed to come to the Floor for a vote by the Republican leadership.
This has to change! Americans have a right to know where their Member of Congress stands on these important issues. Congress has to act! To stand by and do nothing – as innocents are murdered in our communities – seems like a crime in its own right. We owe it to those we have lost to make our communities safer, healthier and more civil.
Democrats in Congress are ready to work – and more importantly, vote – on these issues. We welcome the opportunity to work with our Republican colleagues to enact bipartisan legislation to reduce hate crimes, gun violence and mental illness in this country.
That would be the best way to honor the lives lost in Pittsburgh this week.
Thank you, and God Bless our country.