Lunatic fringe will not dictate who we become


As a global community, it seems we still don’t get it.

Perhaps it emanates from some compelling need to place blame after tragic acts such as this weekend’s shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead and more injured. We spend endless time dissecting the minutia so we can distance ourselves from the reality of what society has become — what we hear every day on the streets, see at political rallies and read online.

The massacre at Orlando and the unfortunately long list of similar acts show just how increasingly intolerant and violent this nation is becoming. By putting on a mask of rhetorical anger, we try to convince others the motives are noble: To take back something perceived as lost; to speak out for some imagined wrong; to draw attention to some demon that must be excised.

Most people will never go to the extreme of harming another. But every seemingly minor thought, action or transgression against someone because of their race, religion, sexuality or beliefs permeates into this bubble of discord that eventually cannot be contained.

Maybe it’s that we need to distance ourselves from such actions if we are to find solace and the strength to keep going from day to day. If we convince ourselves something that happened a thousand miles away to a specific group of people could not happen to us, then there’s less need to feel scared.

These are frightening times, though, and there is nowhere safe from a madman’s grip.

There is a false comfort in attributing a cause to things that sometimes are nothing more than the manifestation of some twisted individual’s dark, clouded mind. But it becomes an obsession to find a culprit, as evidenced by the shameless flurry of agenda-pushing news releases that came out as the victims were still being counted in the shootings at Orlando’s Pulse, a gay nightclub. Groups promoting gun restrictions blamed guns. Those opposed to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyle put the fault on those in the nightclub for daring to be themselves. Anti-immigration supporters used it as an illustration of what happens when others are allowed inside the United States’ borders, despite the reality that the killer was born in the U.S.

Shame on those who try to compartmentalize tragedy.

Gunman Omar Mateen, 29, indiscriminately fired into a crowd before being shot and killed by police after a three-hour standoff. News reports indicate Mateen called 911 during the attack and pledged his support to Islamic State.

Whether the group had any role in the carnage remains unanswered and, although it appears he had no real connections to the terrorist scourge, it quickly became the loudest of the sound bites and furthered the din of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Hate begets hate, and it appears more likely that Mateen’s own sick vision of right and wrong was created from his instilled disdain for homosexuality. That corrupted, warped morality became a faulty rationale for someone, once again, to attack and kill those who represented something with which he didn’t agree.

We have to learn that it is OK to have differing viewpoints. The freedom to think and feel one way or another about a subject or an issue is part of the foundation of this democracy. We should have the ability to open discuss and even debate those differences.

But we continue to push the envelop and the line between respect for human life and dignity gets pushed back further and further. We’re not satisfied with allowing contrasting opinions to exist. We seem destined not to learn from the past just how deadly the venom of self-righteousness can become.

Hatred is the weakest of emotions. It is cowardly and uncontrollable.

Tolerance and understanding are much harder lessons to impart. It shouldn’t take the lives of 49 people — it shouldn’t take the life of even one person — to give us reason to reflect on what we are doing, individually and collectively, to stop this from happening again.

Jacksonville Journal-Courier

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