Difficult Dialog

Difficult Dialog

It’s the elephant in the room, so to speak.  No one wants to talk about it, but it’s there and it isn’t going away any time in the near future.  It’s so weighty that it raises questions about not only our country’s founding documents, but also our core religious beliefs.  You know what I’m talking about without my verbalizing it, but we must have some meaningful dialog if we are ever going to address it at all.  It is the violence in our culture that continues to pervade every segment of our lives.  From human trafficking to domestic abuse to crime related events to militarized civil authorities to mass murders to worldwide terrorism and regional conflicts, we live in a world of violence.

Some political candidates tell us we should be afraid of everyone who is not exactly like us, that we should see a mass murderer behind every rock and tree.  Some activists believe we should overthrow our government and replace it with what I don’t know.  Media outlets swarm to every story which they believe will improve their ratings, some make up “facts” or deal in innuendo and suppositions which have no basis in reality.  The various groups with personal interests in either the prolongation or the abridgement of the violence are lined up against each other prepared to do battle in the media, in the courts and in the legislative houses of federal and state government.  It’s a difficult and highly emotional issue for every member of society.

I have no definitive answers or solutions to where we are or where we seem to be going.  I can say this: I do have a problem with the language used to describe the perpetrators of mass killings.  Because a person is of a faith tradition does not make them a terrorist.  In my mind, people who commit these crimes are mass murders, unless their actions are clearly aimed at the government or government agencies.  The event in Orlando is a hate crime performed by a person who acted against what he perceived to be immoral people.  Had he been a Christian, he likely would have been called a mass murderer, but since he was a Muslim, he was named a terrorist, as though being Muslim is a defining characteristic of terrorists.  Timothy McVey, when he attacked the federal building in Oklahoma City was a terrorist, while Adam Lanza when he invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School was a mass murderer.  This might seem like splitting hairs, but it is important that we do not use language in ways that frame people inaccurately.  While Omar Mateen claimed allegiance to Islamic State (IS) and IS celebrated his action, no evidence has been found at this writing to indicate he had real ties to IS.  He committed a hate crime against the LGBT community in Orlando.

What also concerns me is the ease with which he was legally able to secure an assault rifle to commit his crime of hatred.  My grandfather always had shotguns to hunt with in his house.  Many of my friends do as well.  I know people including former law enforcement who own handguns for protection.  I believe all of these folks are exercising their Second Amendment right.  Assault weapons are not made to hunt with or for self-protection, nor in my mind for target shooting; they are made for killing people in combat situations.  I believe that law enforcement officials (and many former soldiers) concur that these weapons should be kept off of America’s streets.  Congress did not extend the ban on these weapons when it expired in 2004 allowing Mateen to purchase his.  It is a complicated issue, but one that we must continue to dialog about or it will remain a part of the elephant in the room for the foreseeable future.