Monday, June 13, 2016

The Murders We Commit--The Orlando Massacre, a letter home

“Call them mommy, now.”

“I’m tell I’m bathroom.”

“He’s coming.”

“I’m gonna die.”

I have been thinking on these words all day, the last of a series of texts from Eddie Justice to his mother, Mina. They could be a poem, something you would carve in marble and set out for eternity. The simple, awful message they carry is almost all the explanation you will ever need for the evil unleashed in Orlando.


From here, I was about to launch into something about why I believe this is so, about an “innocent life snuffed out” and how the innocence is revealed in the boy’s appeal to his mother, the universal desire not to die, the strangely garbled “I’m tell I’m bathroom.” (Were his fingers trembling too feverishly as he typed?) But words have become cliches—useless, unliving, ways of enabling the demons in our nature to hide and flourish because they are never called to account. “Innocent lives”, “Senseless slaughter,” “A nation mourns”, “Massacre”, “Terrorism,” all those politician and media buzzwords. These are catchwords in an unholy madlb. 

Something is terribly wrong in America and we have become a nation of children with our fingers in our ears and our eyes squeezed shut as the bodies fall before us. A mass grave. The cliches make them numbers in a newspaper. We don’t really care, not really. As long as it’s not us, as long as it’s not one of our friends, as long as its one of them.

We have a lot to answer for. This terrorist act, this mass killing, like all the others, did not just have one cause. Don’t blame the Muslims, but do blame the glorification of persecution by religious leaders of all faiths. I know a lot of Christians are telling themselves "it’s sad, but the gays deserved it." The sentiments of the father of the killer, that he “did not know and did not understand the anger in his son’s heart. Only God can punish homosexuals” is a refrain I have heard over and over again all my life in churches throughout Central Florida. And it is hardly a sentiment limited to religion. Being violently anti-gay as a boy growing up was so common, so part of the background, that I never noticed what a bigot I was. It's epidemic, no matter how positive the changes have been in the last decade. 

And yes, the murderer may have had a mental illness, and he may have been inspired by radical Islam, and he may have this and he may have had that. But really, in the end, what gave all his hatred and insanity its power to kill masses of people was an assault rifle, legally purchased by a man being investigated by the FBI on suspicions of terrorism multiple times.

And the solution isn’t prayer. No amount of prayer is going to bring back the dead or stop the next massacre. All the prayer for Christina Grimmie, the singer shot in Orlando a few nights before the Pulse terrorist attack stopped nothing. The solution is the same solution that paves our roads, protects our rights in court and provides for the national defense—politics.

In December, the Senate voted down a law that would have banned individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. It was part of a bill proposing stricter background checks for firearm purchases. Senate Republicans defeated the measure – including New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, and Ohio’s Rob Portman. 

Adam Gadahn, adviser to Osama Bin Laden had this to say in a 2011 English language video advising Al Qaeda terrorists on jihad,

“In the West, you’ve got a lot at your disposal. Let’s take America for example. America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns. I want to take all reasonable measures to make sure that we aren’t putting them in the hands of those who want to kill. But there is a current of fanaticism that won’t let this happen. I have no hope that they will see reason, put out their torches, put down their pitchforks, and go home to a reasoned debate, to a sense of responsibilty for the bodies lain at our feet.

Elie Wiesel said, “To forget a holocaust is to kill twice.” For us in the States, it is to kill over and over again.


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