My post this week was going to be about online hate speech, and how attempts to regulate it can inadvertently do harm to the marketplace of ideas. It’s a commentary I stand by, and will share with you at the appropriate time.
The day of the deadliest mass shooting in the United States* is not that time. It’s not chilling of speech by some homophobic terrorist; it’s just not being tone-deaf. This can wait.
Don’t misunderstand – this is not one of those “don’t politicize tragedy” refrains. In the wake of another mass shooting, The Onion shouldn’t be ringing true. ‘No way to prevent this,’ says the only nation where this regularly happens.
The Orlando shooter had been questioned by the FBI at least twice since 2013 and was previously on the terror watch list. He legally purchased the AR-15 assault rifle he used to shoot over 100 people in rapid succession. The same weapon used to kill elementary school children at Sandy Hook, movie goers in Aurora, college students in Oregon, and public health workers in San Bernardino. (By the way, even if he had still been on the terror watch list at the time of the purchase, it still would have been legal.)
I make a concerted effort to empathize with people who hold differing viewpoints. And the gun culture is one I’ll admit having great trouble understanding. But it sure seems like we should at least be able to agree that a person with such a history so easily purchasing an assault rifle is problematic. After our politicians’ “thoughts and prayers,” perhaps we could fix it?
And while empty platitudes from politicians who intend to do nothing are aggravating, we shouldn’t so callously dismiss those whose genuine thoughts and prayers are what they can offer. People who are at the same time comforted and mobilized by the healing and intercession found in prayer. People who would be physically serving the families of the victims if they could.
I just got back from a vigil on the steps of the Arkansas state capitol (pictured above). A few hundred people, led by Little Rock’s LGBT community, sang, hugged, cried, and prayed. Right now, many of them are gathered to watch the city’s bridges become illuminated in rainbow colors. It won’t change what happened. The families of the victims in Orlando will probably never know it occurred. And after a day like today, it’s still intrinsically important.
We’ll pick up this conversation again. In due time.
*At least by a lone gunman in a single attack. There are some pre-20th century incidents that could be included depending on your definition.