Thoughts from watching the on-going coverage out of Orlando… it is too early to know all the facts, but as they trickle in it seems obvious that (1) this was an act of terrorism committed by an American citizen, self-radicalized and influenced by Isis; (2) this was a hate crime, motivated by religious-based bigotry of the LGBT community; (3) mental illness was a factor; and (4) easy access to assault weapons was also a factor.
As for (1): we need to do more to fight these kind of domestic terrorists within our borders. We need to develop better tools and smarter methods. We continue to always fight the previous battles, often being 1-step behind. That said, there is no way in a free country to fully eliminate the threat, especially with soft targets like a night club, move theater, workplace, mall, or college campus. Individual vigilance, reporting suspicious behavior, and addressing issues of mental illness, guns, etc, will all be helpful. Further, we need to give law enforcement the tools and resources they need. And yes, we need to fight and defeat Isis… though no one should be so naive as to think that will be the end of terrorism, domestic or foreign.
As for (2): While we have come a long way in terms of LGBT rights and acceptance, we have not come far enough. While it may not have made a difference in this case, more work needs to be done to fight housing and labor discrimination, anti-LGBT violence, etc. Furthermore, from a faith perspective, the dangerous rhetoric that comes from the far right on LGBT issues, especially from religious fundamentalists, is dangerous and contributes to a toxic culture that leads to violence, suicide, depression and all other sorts of damaging realities for LGBT people. Good people of faith — especially within more conservative, but not fundamentalist, expressions of faith — need to stand up, come out as ally’s, and end the rhetoric and bigotry; good people of faith must own the sin that has been committed in their names (and by them) against the LGBT community; and especially, pastors and leaders need to step up for what is right and just and good — and condemn all forms of LGBT bigotry while authentically welcoming and loving their LGBT neighbors.
As for (3): we must continue to do more, from a social policy perspective, to deal with mental illness. Too many states have made the most vulnerable bear the burdens of budget cuts and financial pressures. Sadly, at least in our state, due to budget issues, we have actually taken steps backwards since Sandy Hook, not forwards. This is shameful and unacceptable.
As for (4): I have no need to debate, but let me simply pose some questions that I would love someone to actually answer for me…
(a) What is the possible logic for Congress to reject the idea that someone on a terrorist watchlist should not be able to purchase an assault weapon?
(b) What possible legitimate purpose would an AR-15 have for a normal citizen?
(c) What actual harm would be done to everyday citizens if we banned assault rifles?
(d) Why, in the wake of 9-11, were conservatives so willing to trade away their First Amendment rights and Fourth Amendment rights (via the Patriot Act, etc), yet are so knee-jerk opposed to any responsible gun control laws?
(e) We are a strong nation of problem-solvers and creatives… we seriously can’t solve the gun issue? We seriously can’t come up with common-sense gun control laws and enforce them?
(f) When will enough be enough?
We must pray. We must heal. We must come together. But more is needed. And that more comes from our political and faith leaders — both of which have dropped the ball.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired.
I am tired of the violence.
I am tired of the tears.
I am tired of the inaction.
I am tired by the excuses.
I am tired by the handwashing.
I am tired.