The horrifying shooting at an Orlando gay bar contains a toxic brew of the hot button issues of our time — Islamic terrorism and Islamophobia, gun control and the Second Amendment, gay rights, immigration and our irrational fear of the other.
A shooting like this can easily push everyone on every side to extremes, to justified rage and disproportionate responses. In our pain, that’s where we go.
ISIS, for one, is counting on it. Their lack of moral boundaries is their unfair advantage given small size, limited resources and distant location. They aim to provoke a nativist hatred of Muslims, to unleash a disproportionate, Trump-ian response like shutting down immigration or worse, deportation. Western discrimination works for them, creating hard evidence of our own Islamophobia that wins ISIS more recruits. It’s a downward spiral that for the moment fits their narrative.
How Omar Mateen came to be drawn into their web remains to be known, but for the moment they can claim him as their martyr.
Fifty young lives snuffed out is terrible enough, but today’s tragedy brings something worse. A mass shooting in a gay bar by an apparently radicalized son of Afghan immigrants adds another layer of rage, this time among erstwhile liberals, the progressives who would usually leap to defend Muslims lest they be scapegoated en masse. (Cue Trump and his absurd accusation that Hillary Clinton plans to allow mass Middle Eastern immigration.)
We are all heartbroken to see another mass shooting. And we want to place the blame where it belongs. Deepening our panic is the arrest of a heavily armed man headed to the LA Gay Pride parade – three assault rifles and a bucket of chemicals in his car.
Add to this the unhinged discussion over the Second Amendment, the absurd insistence by our Congressional leaders and a minority of gun-owners that despite one mass shooting after another, assault rifles should still be bought and sold freely in our society.
The vast majority of this country does not believe that. And subverting the will of the majority of the electorate year after year, as innocents die in pools of blood while at school, at leisure, on the street, sometimes in their homes, will have consequences. Most likely extreme ones.
That’s why this brew is getting toxic. The issues are vastly complicated, and more than ever they require measured response. We must respond wisely if we are to be safe as a country, and safeguard our values as a democracy.
I have said many times that as a democracy, we must be intolerant of intolerance. But the chaos of this intolerance is a new kind of challenge. It has no neat corners, no easy explanations and no simple solutions.
The Orlando tragedy reminds us that we have to fight for a tolerant society — keep fighting because, as James Corden said at the Tonys and as I believe: “Hate will never win.”
Just by saying it, he helps make it true.