The mass murder in Orlando touches every hot button our political culture has: The war on terror; homophobia; gun control; Islamophobia; privacy rights; Latino inculturation.
Once you get past the required moments of silence and vague condemnations of the violence, everyone runs to their corner, pulls out the talking points, and acts as if mass murder is a new normal in politics.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy chided the Senate for failing to act on bipartisan legislation that already passed the House.
One of the proposals, passed after the San Bernardino attacks , is the Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act . This does nothing more than call on the Obama administration to draft a report on the administration’s strategy and efforts to combat the terrorists’ use of social media.
One can be sure ISIS fighters are quaking in their boots at the prospect of a report.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said he expected the Democrats “may well” offer an amendment to an appropriations bill preventing those on the no-fly list from purchasing guns. Hoyer did not rule out other attempts to enact gun-control legislation.
Both parties like the idea of spending more money on mental health, even though it is far from clear that this perpetrator of the killings in Orlando suffered from mental illness.
No real treatment
Most mass murderers are sociopaths who suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder , but there is no real treatment, and it is next to impossible to get someone institutionalized on account of the diagnosis.
If you ever watch old reruns of “Law & Order” you know it is sometimes hard to tell when someone is crazy and when they are just damned angry.
The National Rifle Association also likes it when the focus turns to mental health so that the political discussion focuses on the humans, and not the hardware, although both make these mass killings possible.
News that the assailant had frequented the nightclub he later turned into a pit of death left many scratching their heads. But, whether the murderer had psycho-sexual issues is beside the point.
His hatred of gays and lesbians might have been entirely other-directed, fortified by a particular understanding of religious commands. That hatred might have been fortified by a measure of self-hatred, flowing from questions within himself. Either way, he went into that nightclub armed with hatred as well as with an AR-15.
Removing hatred from the human heart is the provenance of pastors more than legislators. Certainly, in moments such as these, the culture turns to religious leaders for guidance.
“This is a tragic and terrible moment, but it could get worse since the combination of terror and fear, politics and guns, hate and sexuality too often bring out the worst in our politics and culture,” says John Carr , director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought in Public Life. “This is not a time for old talking points, but new actions to comfort those who mourn, build bridges of solidarity, and replace hate with love. It is particularly a time for people of faith and religious leaders to offer life-giving alternatives to politics as usual and to move beyond the grief and anger we feel in the face of unspeakable violence.”
Carr’s sentiments ring true, but it is an election year, and truth is easily trumped when there is an election to win.
'All hands on deck'
Instead of selecting one slice of the issues raised by the murders in Orlando, wouldn’t it be something if our politicians and cultural leaders took an “all hands on deck” approach to the various problems raised by the events in Orlando. And not just Orlando: It is worth remembering that the streets of Chicago are as violent on any given weekend as the inside of the Pulse nightclub was last Sunday morning.
Yes, to meaningful gun control, like bringing back the assault weapons ban. And not for 10 years, but forever.
Yes, to fighting homophobia and Islamophobia.
Yes, to a real discussion about immigration and refugees.
Yes, to a real strategy for confronting Islamic terror, which both parties know will take a generation to work out, will only be worked out within the Muslim world, and which the U.S. can easily make worse and quite likely do little to make better.
Yes, to increased funding for mental health.
Hardest of all, yes, to a politics that is not a zero-sum game.
“There are many political hot buttons here that cut in different directions,” says David Couthier , a theology professor at Mt. St. Mary’s University. “But this is an opportunity for us to remember that the underlying truth is the dignity of all people, and the importance of cultivating a profound and deep respect for people that goes beyond labels and identities.”
Michael Sean Winters writes the daily blog "Distinctly Catholic" at the National Catholic Reporter.