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Editorial: Don't let violence go viral

| Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, 4:33 p.m.
Eleven candles, one for each life lost at Tree of Life Congregation, are lit at a Interfaith Prayer Service inside of the Duquesne University Student Union on Oct. 30.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Eleven candles, one for each life lost at Tree of Life Congregation, are lit at a Interfaith Prayer Service inside of the Duquesne University Student Union on Oct. 30.

Bad ideas are contagious.

We see it with drug addiction and suicide. We see it with bomb threats and school shootings.

If there is a way to do exactly the wrong thing in a big way, someone will do it. And someone else will watch. And then it will happen again, and it will probably be bigger or badder.

It happened in Baltimore when a man attending the Hippodrome Theatre’s showing of “Fiddler on the Roof” stood up and shouted “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!”

Coming fast on the heels of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill, and at a musical that follows the lives of a Jewish milkman and his family in Russia, the reaction was adrenaline. It was panic and fear and a scramble for the exits.

It is the kind of thing that you want to think would not happen again and if it did, could not possibly happen in the same city where 11 Jewish residents were just slaughtered in their house of worship. But Pittsburgh was the next city on the “Fiddler” touring schedule.

And Wednesday at the Benedum Center, the contagion spread.

This time, instead of a Nazi shout, it was a man with what appeared to be a weapon.

Andre Freeman Jr. was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, discharging a firearm or airgun, carrying facscimiles of weapons, simple assault and risking a catastrophe after police say he began waving a black BB gun and firing it at the crowd.

No one was hurt, but the real risk may be less about what was in his hand than what was in the air.

Fear and violence have become viral, spreading like the flu but with no way to innoculate ourselves against infection.

We have to take steps, and if we can’t find a cure, let’s find a prevention. Instead of covering your mouth to cough, let’s cover it when we fight the urge to say something we can’t take back. Instead of being careful about exposure to germs, let’s be careful about exposure to hatred.

And as with any infection, don’t let it fester. Get help, or get help for someone in need.

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