Just stop the hatred
The news a week ago was fraught with heartbreak.
In the early morning hours, a lone gunman — whose motives are still being discussed and debated — entered a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and opened fire on patrons, leaving a death toll of 49 people and dozens of others injured. The gunman was killed by police officers responding to the incident.
The club, Pulse, was known as a popular hangout for gay men and women. Reports have reflected the gunman may have been radicalized by internet propaganda, while later reports suggested more personal reasons.
According to an Associated Press report: “Despite [his] pledge of support to the Islamic State, other possible explanations emerged. His ex-wife said he suffered from mental illness. His Afghan-immigrant father suggested he may have acted out of anti-gay hatred, and said his son got angry recently about seeing two men kiss. But questions also emerged over whether [he] was conflicted about his own sexuality” amid reports the shooter had frequented the gay nightclub and was on gay dating apps.
Mass shootings continue to happen at an alltoo-frequent rate in the United States. According to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, the Orlando incident was the 133rd mass shooting in 2016 alone as defined by at least four people shot not including the shooter. By that definition, there have been 76 days this year with mass shootings in the United States — and 88 days without. A total of 207 people have died in those incidents, including the known victims of the Orlando shooting.
But also all too frequent is the rate of those of us who rush to judgment and opinion. One side of the argument says to throw more guns into the hands of citizens so they can better protect themselves from those who intend to do them harm. The other side says to keep guns away from as many people as possible. Then there are many in the middle, looking at the issue from a variety of viewpoints.
There is one thing we can all agree on. These mass shootings, regardless of contributing motivation, are mostly motivated by one thing: hatred. Those who are spurned to take up weapons and randomly target strangers are fueled by hatred of another’s skin color, religion, political views, lifestyle and, quite possibly as in this case, whether someone is a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community.
No one has presented a clear, rational answer as to why these incidents are seemingly occurring with greater frequency than ever before. Also, no one can present a rational option for how to prevent them.
What we can and need to do is stop with the horde mentality of “us against them” when violence occurs. It is so typical in the modern era to quickly shout our opinion or push an agenda, whatever it may be, that we often lose sight of what brought us to the conversation in the first place — that innocent lives were senselessly lost. We indeed need to have a dialogue, but the timeline for those conversations is all too brief. It starts with initial outrage with solutions bandied about and calls for change but, days or even weeks later, everyone goes back to ignoring the issues. The next polarizing story of the day has popped up in our news feeds.
Our leaders need to do a better job of being the example for us all and fostering positive discourse rather than divisive rhetoric. Frankly, a compromise on everyone’s positions is likely going to be the answer that protects more of us into the future.
In the meantime, countless lives are being lost those who lose themselves to hatred. We can work harder to address the roots of hatred — a better exercise than bickering over who is right about that day’s hot-button issue.