I think we are giving the Orlando shooter too much credit. He is little more than a homophobe exercising his Second Amendment rights. In the absence of prior religious or political zealotry, he is nothing more than a thug.
As disgraceful and tragic as this is, this person's name should be blotted out. He adds little or nothing to our understanding of nihilism and the macabre fascination of some people for self-destructive acts. We gave him the freedom/means to commit this act and we called it the Second Amendment.
We have to recognize that evolution takes on many forms, including the evolution of thought. Homosexuality is still a much discussed and politically charged issue with a broad range of opinions within the more traditional American points of view. Many Caucasian and African American religious communities are conflicted over this issue and failure to agree has resulted in the forming of new denominations within denominations and church splits.
South Saharan Africa (mostly Christian) countries still have strong anti-homosexual laws on their books dating back to British Colonial rule. Homosexual activity, all the way through the 1950’s, in the United Kingdom was a significant criminal act, punishable by prison terms from one to five years, which drove some artists and authors into exile to avoid punishment.
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Cases are continuing to be sent to the Supreme Court, and federal and state legislatures to deny civil rights to homosexuals. The criminalization of homosexual behavior is still probably on a number of states’ legal statutes, no longer acted upon, but still supported by various conservative religious and secular groups. We read/hear about these issues weekly in our news bulletins, around sports franchises, in the military. This is not a settled issue and so we should not be surprised if some people take advantage or become belligerent in expressing their strong belief (gay pride) and abject abhorrence (violence and legal maneuvering) among Christian, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, individuals and other societal and religious interest groups.
The transgender issue is misunderstood to the extreme. From an adult perspective, many view transgender as exercising predatory behavior. From the child’s perspective, to be transgender is to be the prey. They are often exploited and beaten by their peers and feel unprotected by society, because their situation is seen through the somewhat corrupted male view of male/female gender roles and rules of attraction. These gender roles do not conform in the transgender child and most adults adopting this lifestyle. Suicide rates are very high among this population due to inner conflict and inability to fit societal norms.
We need to be patient and avoid inflammatory speech; listen and respond as we seek to understand our diversity; respect the rights of others; and the limits we must place upon ourselves to protect the human rights of all.
I will finish with the story of my mother who died as the result of second-hand smoke. She never smoked a cigarette in her life but apparently she smoked a number of the cigarettes of others, because when she eventually collapsed from the effects, she was determined to have the lungs of a two pack a day smoker. She was a remarkable public servant. We now have laws in some cities, counties and states to protect my mother by restricting places where people can smoke.
While we respect the rights of smokers, we must balance that right with the rights of those who are harmed by its effects. The Second Amendment has become like second-hand smoke. We can respect the rights of people who want to keep and bear arms but it needs to be balanced against the rights of those whose lives are taken pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution cannot be at war with itself.
Dean Slade is the director of the Health Connections Check Up Initiative with the Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center.