I write from across an ocean, but my heart is heavy with news of a terribly violent week in the United States.
Last Monday, a caretaker found a pipe bomb in a mailbox at the home of George Soros. By the end of the week, authorities had found more than a dozen mail bombs and identified a suspected bomber, with his targets—including former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton—apparently chosen on the basis of their political views and prominence.
On Wednesday, a man attempted to enter an African-American church with a gun in Louisville, Kentucky. He then went to a local Kroger supermarket, where he allegedly made racist statements and then shot and killed two African Americans.
On Saturday, a man with a history of posting anti-Semitic statements entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After shouting “all Jews must die,” he then shot and killed 11 Jewish congregants.
These events are not normal. This violence is not inevitable. These attacks reflect the vitriol of our politics, deep-seated prejudice, and the easy accessibility of deadly weapons. In public health, we share the pain of the affected communities, reject racism and anti-Semitism, and fight for the policies and services that would prevent future tragedies.
But our field cannot succeed by itself. Reducing violence requires leadership at all levels, starting with the president of the United States. Many public health challenges are rooted in prejudice that is based on racial, religious, or gender identities. We must address violence in all its forms as we have faced other challenges—working in solidarity with affected groups to identify solutions that are based on evidence and grounded in justice.
As I think about the families and communities who are suffering, I am more committed than ever to working for progress in our world.
Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, MSc ’75
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University