It could have been any of us. A son. A daughter. Ourselves. The killings took place in a night club frequented by LGBTQ persons. But it could equally be a military base, an elementary school, a coffee shop, a shopping mall, or a church. I know one young man who went to the Pulse when living in Orlando. I actually checked his Facebook page to see that he was safe, in case he was back visiting friends.
I’ve had several reactions as I’ve heard the news stories. Mostly there is incredible sadness for these young adults whose lives were brutally and efficiently cut short. I work with collegians around this age, people in the midst of sorting out life, purpose, vocation, sexuality and so much more. I grieve that 49 of them will never get the chance and pray that those wounded, some seriously, will. I grieve for families who lost those they love so suddenly and irrevocably.
I’m also angry. No matter our views on sexuality, I would hope we can stand together and say this kind of violence, or any form violence against LGBTQ people can never be justified, any more than can the violence against the Charleston Nine or the children at Sandy Hook. It disturbs me that there are those in our country who can’t seem to see this, just as it disturbs me that there is a sub-culture that tolerates or even glorifies male sexual violence against women.
While I don’t want to ban all guns (and I really mean that!), I’m deeply troubled that we protect the sales of assault weapons whose only purpose is to efficiently kill many people. The killer legally obtained his weapon. I cannot see any justification for a private citizen to own such a weapon and I wonder if those who buy them stop and think about the moral bridge they have crossed. It would be a start to make such weapons illegal and compensate those who obtained their weapons legally. I wonder about a country where we cannot have a rational discussion of this idea. Some cite apocalyptic scenarios. All I can say is that Big Brother always has bigger and better weapons.
I do think we need to take the measure of ISIS. That doesn’t mean to fear them but to understand them, and how they differ from other Muslims in their assertion that they are a caliphate, the true and only successors to Muhammad, and justified in the use of violence against all infidels, including other Muslims. We need to understand the use of digital media to spread ideas that radicalize young people around the world. And the world community must go beyond understanding to concerted resistance, naming this for the evil that it is. This group won’t go away by trying to “make nice” with them. I also realize that while some will be called to resist them with the gun, for others, theirs will be the resistance of the cross, possibly ending in martyrdom. In the end, I wonder which of these will triumph.
Should we also grieve for the young man who perpetrated this act? It seems so many of these incidents involve young men, whether it is mass violence, or the mayhem on the streets of our cities. I wonder about a society where so many young men resort to violence, whether video, sexual, or armed. Why do so many feel the need to assert their manhood in these terms?
Those are my rambling thoughts, expressions of the lament of my heart that cries yet again, “how long?”