"The World Turned Upside Down." How prescient those lyrics are from the brilliant musical Hamilton. My 14-year-old daughter and I departed Orlando early this past Sunday morning and flew to New York to see the musical about the first fight for our civilization. We heard the news that morning on the airport flat screens.
While the tourist areas of my town are billed as the happiest places on Earth, I've spent more than 18 years telling people all over the world that Orlando is so much more than theme parks, hotels, and shows. The motto actually applies everywhere here. It's an amazing place to live and work, and I happily serve as an unofficial ambassador for my adopted hometown. I chose to move here, start businesses here, started my family here. I had several other options, but I wanted to be here. It's a real city -- nothing fake or plastic about our people and the non-theme park culture of our city.
We have one of the most open, welcoming, and inclusive business and social climates around, partly because so many are not originally from here. I've lived in many other places, done business in many other cities but rarely seen such hospitality anywhere else. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by such conscientiousness, but in times like this, it takes on a deeper meaning. Our city will not be known for this travesty. We are so much more, and we can't allow one maniac to define us.
I broke-down late Monday afternoon in a corner of the hotel bar. I'd held it in for a couple days, been parental and professional. But pressure built. I called my wife: Here we go again. Eleven days before September 11th we brought our daughter into this world. I called a Muslim friend to make sure his family was safe. I broke down again: "Why can't people discriminate between evil and the normal?"
While I know most Muslims are not extremists, our civilization is under attack again from those who claim that religion. Modern civilization faces a twisted revolution by those who would rather catapult us back to the Dark Ages. We have to band together and be vocal, visible and resolute - and it is time for political correctness to take a holiday.
We are once again at war for our civilization, and we must re-avow our rights and beliefs. Both sides of our political establishment must reconcile with five undeniable truths about the world today.
Truth #1: No one should be tortured or assassinated because of who they choose to love. LGBT citizens deserve the same rights as heterosexual citizens. What you do in your bedroom is a personal matter - it shouldn't be a life-threatening choice or one that could get you fired from a job. Your religious views might deem certain actions as inappropriate or sinful, but that can't distract us from living peacefully in our pluralistic society. People in the LGBT community share the very same hopes and dreams as everyone else. People are just people. It's time they no longer be ostracized. Love is love.
Truth #2: No one should be allowed to shove their religion down another's throat and at the risk of violence. That isn't the American way. We worship who and how we want in our country -- just don't hurt another in so doing. And it's perfectly okay to be religious, as long as you recognize that others can worship as they like as well. The extremists do not represent Islam. Literal interpretation of sacred texts in all religions can be very dangerous -- it's why Christians and Jews no longer stone sinners to death in 2016. We have to reach out to the majority of Muslims and encourage their outspokenness against this filth. Let us not conflate Islam with extremists. They disgrace Islam when they claim divine inspiration. There is nothing divinely inspired in putting on a suicide-bombers' vest. All of the world's religions hold this truth as a fundamental one. One cannot glorify the Creator by killing his innocent creations.
Truth #3: We are in a battle for our civilization, and we must acknowledge it. While our civilization is far from perfect, it is the greatest of all time. We offer the most freedoms. Ours is the most humane. This is undeniable, and we are unequivocally correct on this matter. The radicals hate our freedoms and the choices that come from them. They are wrong. We are right. It is NOT relative. If it offends the sensitive, so be it. Identification of our enemy and the war we're in has a very clarifying effect to the mind - to not do this is to dissemble, to deflect, and to show weakness when strength is called for.
Truth #4: Banning guns is merely a bandage. If it comes to that, it's the easy part. Fighting for our civilization is much harder. One shouldn't hope to win a war when unarmed. When someone is this mentally ill (what else would you call acting out on such hatred?), it's pretty hard to stop them... be their weapon of choice be guns or knives or homemade explosives or rocks or sticks or whatever. Focusing our "solutions" on guns is very inadequate. It must go much broader than that. However, someone on the government's terrorist watch list or with a history of mental illness mustn't be allowed to secure guns. If you can be identified as an extremist and placed on the "no fly list," how is it possible that you can still buy a gun? It's now time for a national database of registered gun users that all law enforcement can cross-reference. Closing loopholes is just common sense and wisdom, it's not revoking the 2nd Amendment. This needs to happen quickly. No more empty rhetoric. Stop the next atrocity now.
Truth #5: Law enforcement agencies must be empowered with the ability to conduct surveillance on mosques and even perform under-cover operations. It isn't a civil rights violation when the alternative could be mass deaths. If some fringe element of Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or others were terrorizing their fellow citizens, it would make perfect sense to do likewise. We have to use common sense and not let politically-correct thinking cloud our judgment, ever again.
In Orlando, it remains a time to grieve but soon, it will be time to take action. The very future of our pluralistic, secular civilization depends on it. With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda: Martyrdom is easy, living is harder. When are WE going to Rise Up?