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June 16, 2016

Tragedy and Meaning

Patricia A. Kelly

This week has marked the largest mass shooting in American history, the worst terrorist attack on U.S soil since the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York.


We’re in an undeclared war against radical Islamic extremism, not against Islam or the LGBTQ community, or transgender people or conservative Christians.


We are also in a war, perhaps even less reported, against un- and undertreated mental illness.


It seems we can’t figure out how to win this war, confused and self-serving as our “leaders” appear when trying, or not really trying, to find a common sense balance between individual rights and the security of our society, and our world.


Liberals blame murders and massacres on guns. Conservatives, decrying risk to Second Amendment rights, blame our liberal leaders for failing to take necessary steps to protect us.


There is plenty of blame to go around, and some of it belongs on us, the people in our society who buy into hate, and fail to report suspicious activity, look out for our neighbors, or work to create community.


Blame is a waste of time, particularly when serious problems demand correction.


It’s easier to “Monday morning quarterback” than to play the game. It’s easier to say, “Elect me, and I’ll find the solution.” It’s easier to blame than to do the work of making change.


With a gun in hand, it may indeed be easier to kill and to yield to angry impulse than it would to make a bomb, or get up close and bloody oneself while killing with a knife. Yet no gun fires itself.


This latest tragedy took place in a bar intended to provide a safe space for the LGBTQ community to come together and enjoy themselves. Perhaps that choice was made because of hidden homosexuality on the part of the killer. It could easily have occurred at Disney World instead.


In response to this tragedy, the American people have done the right thing. We, Muslim, Christian, gay and straight, Caucasians, Blacks and Asians, have stood together in support of the fallen and their families, putting aside prejudice and differences in belief, just helping each other instead of fighting.


I can’t say the same for our “leaders,” who continue to spout epithets at one another in this tragic time.


Our coming together, not only at this emotional moment, but in the days ahead, could give this massacre lasting meaning.


Let’s look for, and demand real solutions. Let’s de-stigmatize personal life choices and religious beliefs. Let’s insist on respect for those of different views. Let’s not force our lifestyle choices on those they offend. Let’s de-stigmatize mental illness and bring treatment into the mainstream of medical care.


Let’s insist on legal immigration reform, that vetted people come here who embrace American values, contribute to our society, and learn to speak one language.


In this dangerous time, both from drug dealers and terrorists, let’s unshackle our border patrol officers, so they can do their jobs, and keep our society more safe. Let’s add the support they need, on all our borders.


Let’s insist that our law enforcement agencies communicate openly with one another, so that nothing one agency knows is missed by another.


It’s true it takes great time and effort to become part of the political process and insist on change, but let’s do that. Let’s let our leaders know we expect transparency and fact-based decisions, rather than those based on ideology.


Let’s embrace, rather than ostracize those who suffer from mental illness, and keep an eye on those few who demonstrate bizarre or potentially dangerous behavior.


It truly doesn’t appear that we can count on those we elected to take care of things for us, so, for real change to occur, we must step up and insist our society’s needs be met.


On Tuesday, I attended the vigil held here in Frederick at the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ and spoke with participants. Warmth and caring were palpable in the crowd. Participants reported they were most moved by the presence and the speaking of so many different people, all coming together for the same purpose, in a safe space, provided as our Frederick City police watched over them.


Let’s remain united in fairness and justice for all. Let’s make this latest tragedy have meaning and become a lasting testimonial to those who were killed or wounded. These wounds lie upon us all.


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