The Orlando Massacre, Bringing Out the Worst in Us
In Orlando Florida a lone gunman armed with an AR-15 military rifle and a handgun murdered 49 people and wounded just as many others. Like similar incidents of terrorism, gun violence and mass shootings this latest outrage touches upon virtually every political hot button in America.
It certainly raises the issue of radical Islamic terrorism. During the outrage the shooter, Omar Mateen declared his Islamic radicalization. He also visited the Middle East and prior to the event, had been investigated by the FBI for suspected terrorist ties. Nonetheless, it remains uncertain exactly what motivated the attack.
Although of Middle Eastern descent, Mateen was born an American citizen whose family has been here for thirty years. Moreover, there is no indicated that his actions were controlled or directed by a foreign power. He could have been a lone wolf. Yet, he gave no outward appearance of radicalization and by all accounts was not a practicing Muslim.
There is also contravening evidence that the shooter was motivated by rage, mental illness and self loathing. He may have targeted gays because of unresolved issues about his own sexuality. Reportedly he was a regular of the Pulse nightclub, used the dating app, Jack’d to meet men and was attracted to drag queens. See the Down Low Jihadist: 5 Signs that Omar Mateen Was Gay, http://rollingout.com/2016/06/15/low-jihadist-5-signs-say-omar-mateen-gay/.
Moreover, completely apart from his religion or sexual preference, Omar Mateen was mad at himself and the world. He had a history of emotional outbursts, insubordination, defiance of authority, disciplinary action, violence and domestic abuse. Omar Mateen was indeed one sick puppy. See School Records Paint a Disturbing Picture of Orlando Shooter, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/06/16/gunmans-violent-behavior-school/859692.
But the Orlando tragedy is made worse by our reaction thereto. Rather than find common ground, too many have exploited the senseless murder 49 people to divide, castigate and blame.
One Presidential candidate used the massacre to brag and boast about how right he was, to question the patriotism of the current Commander-in-Chief and to advance a religious test for entry into the country. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, went so far as to tweet the biblical verse, [A] man reaps what he sows. To many, this equated the massacre of gays with divine retribution. He deleted the tweet within days of its posting. See http://fortune.com/2016/06/17/john-mccain-obama-orlando-shooting/?iid=rightrail-more and http://fortune.com/2016/06/12/orlando-dan-patrick/.
A recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal asked Are Democrats Soft on Terror and a letter in the same edition entitled Orlando Isn’t About Gun Control took umbrage at the call for gun legislation. See the Wall Street Journal, Thursday, June 16, 2016, p. A-13.
This disparate reaction is in part due to our polarized and partisan divide. The Left views the incident as an example of mass shooting and gun violence made all too easy by the availability of military assault weapons. The Right sees the incident as a clear-cut case of terrorism brought about by radical Islam, Any notion to the contrary offends them as does the failure to use the term radical Islamic terrorism.
But the Orlando tragedy, like other violent incidents is not an either or proposition. It is not a case of foreign or domestic inspired terrorism versus gun violence and mass shooting. It is instead both. It is rather all. The Orlando Massacre is the perfect storm of foreign and domestic terrorism, race, immigration, religion, gun violence, mass shootings, the 2nd Amendment, politics, domestic abuse, mental illness, gun control, anti-gay violence and lax law enforcement.
These are complex issues. Separating each thread, seeing how they intersect and interact, is a mental exercise worthy of Einstein. Preferring the simple to the complex, not all are willing to engage in such heavy mental lifting. It is far easier to react rather than to reflect, to destroy instead of build, to harm rather than heal and to hate rather than love. Thus, the appeal of walls, religious tests and bans.
Nevertheless, we cannot resolve the problems of terrorism or gun violence with more fire and hate. We cannot shoot our way to a solution. We cannot invade our way to safety. And we will not move towards health by lashing out at those who dare disagree. For all of our political and ideological differences, the Orlando Massacre involves both terrorism and gun violence.
In conclusion, we are all obligated to combat the scourge of international and domestic terrorism, as well as gun violence and mass shootings. And we must deal with those who harm innocents for whatever reason with extreme prejudice. In other words, take em out.
But tragedy can either bring out the best or the worse in us. Regrettably, the Orlando Massacre has resulted in the latter. And it promises to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Leo Baron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum