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The Tragedy of the Orlando, Florida Massacre

I grieve deeply over these attacks. I grieve even more when one of our candidates for the presidency of this nation seeks to use this tragedy to score political points. I am amazed to hear not only innuendo from one of them, but also actual hints that the president of the United States is either so weak and inept as to be helpless in the face of this threat, or is actually in collusion with these terrorists, thus revising the charges this candidate once made that our president was not born in the United States, but in Kenya, and is really a Muslim. As lawyer Joseph Welsh once said to Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin when he was on a witch hunt for communists: “Have you no sense of decency?” Those words are once more totally in order to be spoken in our national life at this time.

I also grieve that terrorism is now linked with homophobia, which makes one of America’s most oppressed minorities newly vulnerable. I recently learned from members of the Orlando gay community that the Orlando killer had himself not only been to this gay club on a number of occasion, but that he also had contacted some of his victims previously through a gay dating app, presumably seeking to line up sexual encounters. I recall well that some of my church’s most homophobic clergy turned out to be self-hating and deeply repressed gay men. If repressed homosexuality turns out to be a factor in this tragedy then I fear it will once again open the floodgate of hostility toward the LGBT community. It makes me want to march once again in the New York City Gay Pride Parade in an act of solidarity.

This nation’s rising consciousness about homosexuality will not be suppressed or turned around, but mentally sick people will make others their victims, before this prejudice joins other such shameful moments in our nation’s history as the witch hunt of Salem, Massachusetts. A dying prejudice can sometimes be a lethal force in our society. I never want to underestimate the power in human beings to do evil to their fellow human beings.

The gun laws in this country will also once more be debated. The ratio of guns to American citizens is the highest in the world—eighty guns for every hundred Americans. Despite the political rhetoric that suggests that the 2nd Amendment is about to be repealed, I know of no candidate for president who calls for such an action. What has been called for is the banning of the sale of assault weapons that have no purpose being in the hands of anyone except those in the Armed Services fighting to keep this nation free. There is nothing in the 2nd Amendment that should permit an individual to own an assault weapon with a magazine holding thirty bullets. No one hunts with such a weapon. No one needs such a weapon to protect his or her safety. It is a nothing other than a weapon of war. If individual citizens can legally own an assault weapon then why not sell them a tank or a canon? Gun laws can be made sane, safe and sensible under the terms of the 2nd Amendment. The current political rhetoric that suggests the contrary is irresponsible, ignorant and profoundly dangerous.

I love my country I grieve that so many of my fellow citizens today feel such fear, anxiety and insecurity that they can respond to the politics of hate. We will honor the victims of the Orlando killings by building a nation based on hope for a better tomorrow for all Americans, not on vengeance, exclusiveness and the fear of those who are “not like us.”

John Shelby Spong.

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