On Wednesday last week, police in Massachusetts arrested a 36-year-old man for planting a homemade explosive at the entrance of a Jewish assisted-living facility in early April.
On April 2nd, John Michael Rathbun of East Longmeadow allegedly planted a five-gallon plastic gas canister filled with gasoline at the entrance to Ruth's House in Longmeadow, MA.
He then lit a Christian religious pamphlet on fire and stuck in the canister's nozzle to act as a fuse, but his improvised bomb did not explode and no one was injured.
Police found blood on the pamphlet and the canister which they say they matched to Rathbun with DNA analysis. He is now charged with two counts of attempted arson and faces five to ten years in prison if convicted.
Federal prosecutors say that Rathbun is a member of a white supremacist group. They withheld the name of the group, but did note that the FBI's Western Massachusetts Joint Terrorism Task Force has been tracking it since March.
The prosecutors noted that members of the group had been discussing using explosive targets to kill racial and religious minorities, notably Jews and Muslims. One member of the group, not identified by prosecutors, posted in March that a target should be “that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts.”
Authorities said that they believe the same member who identified Ruth's Home as a target also created an event for April 3rd that they called “jew killing day” and listed the location as “Jew Nursery Home.”
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling pointed out the connection between the current COVID-19 pandemic and the timing of the attack. “In times of national crisis, hatred based on religion often blossoms into violence,” he said.
This kind of senseless religiously-motivated violence is always as horrifying as it is pointless, but right now the world faces the Coronavirus pandemic. In a time when we need, more than ever, to remain sensible and concerned with the welfare of everyone, it is mind-boggling to see people focusing so much energy on destroying people just for being different.
Hatred born from ancient beliefs and primitive notions of in-group superiority versus out-group inferiority have no place in the 21st century in general, but especially not now.