As most people have no doubt heard, a 29 year-old man in Orlando, Florida shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. For a day and a half people have been offering their opinions about the murders, the worst shooting in our history. Was the man insane? Was he filled with hatred for people different than himself? Was he a terrorist dedicated to fomenting terror against his own country? I do not know. It could be a trifecta of reasons, (reasons in his mind). But, there is a thread that runs through these acts of terror and hate crimes that have come to light in the past few years.
The common thread is fear, fear of the “other”, whether it is someone with loyalties or sexual orientations or ethnicities other than themselves or whether it is resentment of the “other”, the common element is fear. This fear results in the use of “overkill” force. We have seen how these fearful individuals have used weapons usually associated with military applications, or they carry multiple weapons. We saw that in Colorado when two resentful boys killed their classmates. And, no one can deny that the murders in Orlando were cowardly acts.
Someone might say that we need to teach tolerance in order to allay the fears of those who might act out of fear to do unspeakable violence. I disagree. In the best case, tolerance is a condescending action; it still connotes thinking that the “other” is a lesser person to be tolerated.
It has t start early in life with exposure to people and situations that are unfamiliar, but filled with promise. What I mean is this; as adults, we can expose the young to a wealth of variety. All of us have gifts and as a society we are greater when we delve deeply into what moves and defines others within and without that society. We are enriched and our fears can never have the chance to grow.
But, it requires all of us to intentionally explore things of which we might be afraid. Fear can melt away when we truly know each other. It is easy to stay limited in the scope of our experiences. The cost, however, is too high.
For now, we can certainly pray for an offer succor for those who mourn, but our future consists in this; that we work to grow a fearless society in which the “other” is celebrated and not tolerated.
Grace an peace.