In this country’s perilous paralysis to do anything meaningful about gun control after Sandy Hook, my heart has hardened to this terrible acts of violence. Not to the families affected. My political heart, the one that speaks to policy, and a desire to fix things, is the one that is frozen. Go ahead and dismiss me if you want with this next comment, but I can’t help but wonder whether this irrational paralysis transcends policy and politics. It is a spiritual challenge. It is almost as if we are paying for sins exacted in our wild west, a wild west that began on North America’s eastern shores and the first European thrust. I told you, go ahead and laugh. If the study of history has taught me anything, it is that history operates to the laws of irony. Being mowed down in a spray of bullets just because you were there has a very solemn and somber ring to it.
Reading between the lines about the shooter, I sense a profound lack of self-acceptance. This insight comes from my own experience, long explored on couches with therapists and many dark nights struggling with religious devotion, a desire to please my family, the many parts of myself and emotional and sexual desire that I could ignore only to my detriment. Go ahead, tell me that I project. I do, with empathy and a few data points about his visceral reactions to homoerotic moments and the irrational abuse he heaped on his wife. ISIS is a smokescreen. Perhaps he connected its violent interpretations of Sharia law to the violence he felt inside himself. But it also serves to throw everyone -- including himself -- off the real track. Tortured soul. No way out. A spray of violence, a purge of the self.
It would be a real shame and a lost opportune moment if we go down this “radical Islam” track in Orlando’s aftermath. There are two principle political issues stemming from this event: gun control and mental health. Let’s stay on point and not get lost. Stop the dangerous tendency to scapegoat. Let’s accept the violence in our own history and what we might do to bring genuine peace before launching off to make the rest of the world “safe for democracy.” Violence begets tyranny. If we want real democracy, we have to heal our own hearts.
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