Like shooting fish in a barrel. Music so loud dancers couldn’t distinguish gunshots from base notes. No one could be heard if they tried to speak. So dark splashes of blood seemed at first like roses or swirls of color on white shirts or bare backs. Slowly, knowing and horror dawned together in the dark pre-dawn hours. Then the blast of the beat lessened, shouts must have been heard, people rushed to aid those who had fallen, and still the ghastly scene ran on for two or three more hours until the law was able to overpower the shooter.
Who would do such a thing? Intentional, well armed and well timed. Alone—without friends. Others so different from him, he believed they were wrong and he was right. They did not befriend him, so he rejected them. His religion empowered him. Strangers ought to be more like he was. But he wasn’t recruiting. This scenario blossomed in his brain. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel. So cool. So chilling.
What is it that causes a person to hate so intensely he or she builds anger into fervor. Hatred so pure nothing modifies or lessens it. It has to explode. The perpetrator sees nothing but death for those so free they’re dancing mindlessly and drinking and enjoying themselves, something he doesn’t allow himself. Or she has buried her own attraction to just this thing so deeply she hates those who can freely choose it. Hates to the point of murder.
In the aftermath, stunned, we eagerly need to know who the perp was. We know now he declared he had pledged to ISIS. He killed everyone he could to disrupt our ways and thus—this is the part that puzzles me—raise the flag of his religion. Really? His “religion” demands he kill? How unlike the major religions of the world, at whose heart is a law of love—especially for the stranger in our midst. How vulnerable we are to such ghoulish motives. How can laws ever protect us? We see ourselves in school rooms, theaters, dance halls, and malls, even churches, now vulnerable, now fearful.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. This is a human problem—the work of an angry man, a bully to his former wife. Any political or cultural or race group convinced it is right may force its “faith” on everyone. Even if it is part of such a group, no one is to blame. All are to blame for fomenting hate over love. For not welcoming the stranger, as all ancient faiths believed. It is a desert commitment.
In this world there are many reasons to hate and many reasons to love. It’s a choice. We who don’t shoot—even if we hate—have made choices. All of us share normal feelings that range from love to rage, wrath to laughter. Emotions move through us every moment as we interact with others and share our lives. Feelings move through us. And we recognize, evaluate, and express them as we can in safe places, or seek out safe people to share them with. We need to try to understand them, and to understand ourselves.
Pick up a stone to throw at an enemy. Or resolve to wait, to withdraw to think about why you’ve made an enemy. St. Paul writes, Every marvelous thing you may do with your life, if you do it without love, you’ve gained nothing. [1st Corinthians 13.]
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep scores of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. [The Message 1 Cor. 13]
The Orlando shooter knew nothing of love, knew nothing of a death that is not the last word, but an opening of the gates to greater love. In fact I believe that a movement—not of death—but of love and solidarity can rise out of Orlando, out of Florida, out of states as well as cities, and out of rich and poor, young and old, GLBTQ, religious or spiritual and everything in between. We who love need to be smart, strong, and vigilant. The world is too wonderful for us to shrink to being so afraid we build walls instead of bridges. To work toward the sister and brotherhood we all crave, to do Tikkun olam (repair the world), we need to trust steadily in the Holy One, hope without ceasing, and love extravagantly. The greatest of these, is love. [1 Cor. 13.13]