If I do this right then I will likely offend everyone, and then gently touch hearts so that we can all see eye to eye and heart to heart.
I am deeply deeply saddened by the news of the deaths of so many people last night at Pulse in Orlando. My heart aches for their families and friends. I can’t help but also think about the wounded, both mentally and physically. My thoughts are with you and my prayers as well.
I am also deeply disappointed in our response to this tragedy as a people and nation.
Everyone has rushed defensively to their political trenches, embedded themselves and prepared to give and take fire from the other side. This is unacceptable. Surely we all see that?
I am a gun owner. I have been since I was a teenager. I believe firmly in the 2nd amendment. However, I believe we should do a better job with background checks. I am not opposed to the idea of reasonable waiting periods for purchasing firearms. Honestly those feelings are more focused on the people who daily end their own lives then on those who perpetrate horrific acts against many. We can and should do better at helping them and at understanding the actual causes of gun related homicides in the USA.
We should be funding research into it. We should also be funding mental health services and providing real care for those in need of it. But this is a thought for another time.
The popular thing to say here would be that I want to see these changes because of The Pulse shooting. But, they likely wouldn’t have stopped it. If you need proof of that please pause and remember the ISIS attacks on Paris in a country where automatic weapons are illegal for civilian ownership. There, AK rifles were used in a country that has an outright ban on them.
The other common refrain right now is the horror of religion. This is yelled from the Right as they rail against Islam, and the Left as they rail against religion generally. Diversity of thought, religious experience, and culture is the hallmark of American democracy. Have terrible things been done in the name of God? Yes. Have terrible things been done in the name of progress? Yes.
If you don’t believe the former, please go read about the Troubles in Ireland, the bombings in the Middle East, and the Crusades. If you don’t believe the latter please go read about Stalin and Russia, The Great Leap Forward in China and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
To paint the tragedies of our world with a single stroke is to rob them of their complexity and reality. It is to cheapen them. It’s like saying that Napolean was just a megalomaniac or the Rockefellers were simply greedy. Things in history and life are never that simple. People do horrible things for complex reasons. They also do wonderful things for complex reasons. It is ok for us to not understand. Life is messy and complicated.
Religion is a source of peace for many, many people. It is for me. There are of course those who twist religion to be something that divides and attacks. Who seek power and chaos and fame through the use of religion. Some people just want to shape the world to match their particular vision. This can be a good thing, it can also be a terrible thing. Without that drive we wouldn’t have the Holocaust. We also wouldn’t have our Nation.
Freedom of religion is core to the stability of a democracy. As soon as we start mandating certain thoughts in others we have lost the freedom that a democratic society is supposed to provide. Joseph Smith perhaps said it best, “We claim the privilege of worshiping almighty God and allow all men the same privilege let them worship how where or what they may.” There are limits to this, when our worship infringes on the wellbeing of others or their own worship we forfeit these rights.
I believe that freedom of thought and expression is the most fundamental right in our society and that without it we cannot continue as a nation. That means if you claim the privilege of not worshiping God then that is also your right.
We need to resist the urge to make this about ourselves and our own beliefs. Let’s make it about being inclusive, and expunging hate through love. Let’s make it about the people who have been so tragically killed, whose lives were cut short. Let’s make it about understanding how this happened, not in a shallow surface political way but in a deep and probing way that makes each of us look into our hearts for anything amiss there.
When it comes down to it we either sink or swim together. That’s what America is about. Gathering our families near, and having the freedom to become better people. This great experiment can only succeed if we as a Nation stand together and fight together to become more caring, more kind, more unified and more open. Otherwise we have allowed our attackers to win. Worse we have become our attackers greatest allies.
So please put down your politics and put your arms around your friends, your family, your neighbors and even random strangers. Because the 50 or more people who died can’t. Their families and friends can’t. Let’s fill the holes left behind with love, because that’s the only way to fill them at all.