Tribute to the Victims of the Orlando Shooting

gay pride flag painted on...
gay pride flag painted on...

When any human being dies, a part of me dies. The death of any human being should affect each of us because we are one; every human being belongs to me just as I belong to every human being. My life just as my death is of infinite significance to everyone out there in the same way that the life and death of any human being is of infinite significance to me and to the world. The deaths of these innocent brothers and sisters at Pulse Night club in Orlando is not only horrible but despicable. My heart bleeds in pain. All men and women of goodwill in the US and throughout the world are rightly appalled at this unmitigated tragedy.

But this horrible act is not only something we all should condemn and grieve about especially here in the US; it is something that America must confront. Tears are not enough; comforting words will ring hollow to the loved ones who are left to carry this terrible pain for the rest of their lives or many LGBTQ brothers and sisters who feel the heat of homophobia coming from religious and political extremists. These men and women who were slaughtered in the most senseless mass shooting in America will not rest in peace until this nation confronts the twin monsters of gun violence and home grown radical Islamic fundamentalism.

Political grandstanding or our politicians making political capital out of this unmitigated tragedy insults the memory of these brothers and sisters and the beautiful lives they led until their violent end. This is a time for our political gladiators to sheath their swords, and think only of these hapless victims, their families and a traumatized nation. What makes sense; what will speak to the darkness of these times is for America to answer the question: How long will this continue? How can this nation continue to stew in the blood of her citizens because of gun violence? How can we justify this irrationality under the guise of the right to bear arms? What nation on earth will simply allow anyone to carry assault weapons as a right as if to say that protecting ourselves is simply guaranteed through obtaining guns? All the people at pulse night club if they were Americans had a right to bear arms but who in his right mind will carry guns to a club?

These beautiful men and women were only thinking of life and not of death; they were simply celebrating life not preparing to die or to inflict violence on any person. They were celebrating the gift of love. Most of them were gays and Pulse was a sacred space where they gathered to simply feel the warmth of acceptance and love in the smiles, friendship and warmth of each other. They gathered to enter into the reality of the most beautiful thing happening on earth, to love and to be loved. In a world that often misunderstood them or even in many instances preach hatred towards the LGBTQ persons and judge them so harshly, Pulse was a safe space where they could touch the margins of heaven. Coming to Pulse was for most of these brothers and sisters like a little heaven where they felt a glimpse of the eternal in the ecstasy of love where time and eternity stopped in the beautiful dance of human affection beyond borders. It was in the midst of this heavenly presence, in the quiet of the morning that an angel of death came calling.

This angel of death was equipped with two false weapons. The first a false Islamic religious notion of purity and order distorted by a poisoned mind and a darkened soul. This was an unhappy young Islamist, who drank to the dregs a venom of hatred for the LGBTs community and for humanity. Second, he was equipped with guns and assault weapons because America has given evil and morbid people like him the right to acquire arms so easily. And in his conscienceless and irrational rage, these weapons offered a coward the most atrocious means of displaying his existential sterility in the most wicked and heartless destruction of these pure trees of life planted in God's garden of love at Pulse.

I believe that every human being is beautiful to God--this is true for everyone, black or white, gay or straight, saints and sinners. Everyone is someone beautiful to God. There is a divine light and life in all of us; we all bear the image and likeness of God. Each and everyone of us has a special gift; a special song to sing, and a special love and service to render to confer on creation a beauty beyond measure. This is why it is so hard to accept that a mass killer like this incarnation of evil who visited so much pain on so many in Orlando is beautiful to God. But the irony of it all is that when we think of what he could have become if he had been true to his identity as a child of God, and if he had been true to the authentic values of the Islamic religion, we see in its starkest form the reality of evil.

This is why I condemn in unequivocal terms those who will claim after this horror that bearing arms is a good thing for every American and those who will deny that what he did had nothing to do with radical Islam. This man does not come to my church; he goes to a mosque. The Islamic community while rightly condemning this man must also take responsibility in the US and Canada for the burgeoning of home grown terrorists who are emerging from the ranks of young Muslim Americans and Canadians. A new form of Islamic formation is needed for young Muslims in this country by the Muslim community to combat the radicalizing message from ISIS. But we all must spare a thought about the kind of society we have here in the US that produced monsters who do the kind of unspeakable evil that took place on Orlando and the mass shootings which have become a regular occurrence in the US. Only a healthy society will produce healthy minds and healthy and well integrated men and women who live up to the ideals which we all aspire toward as a nation.

Let me also say that gun or any weapon is evil. Arms are evil because they result in death. I am not a pacifist by any means but truth be told any society where murder is rampart and violence is so rife must ask herself it is not a sign of a return to barbarism of a bygone era. What can be so barbaric and uncivilized as killing innocent people? Is it not what obtained many years when people were not advanced in learning, conflict management and building community through law and order? Is it not what Hobbes calls the law of the jungle where 'man became wolf to man'? And guns are so available in America because there are many people who are making billions from gun business. But violence is not who we are.

A dying Freud did say in his little book, Civilization and its Discontent that one of the greatest challenges of the future for humanity is whether the invention of our hands especially weapons of violence will end up in disrupting permanently our common life. This is what gun violence does to America. As a professor at an American university, I go to work every day worrying if a crazy student or an angry colleague will visit us with death in the classroom. It is such a shame that professors in US universities are now receiving training on how to act if a shooter shows up in the classroom!

This is a time to weep. But it is also a time to think together. It is a time to thank God for the wonderful lives of these beautiful men and women who were slaughtered simply because of who they are. Those who know them and love them can cherish the fact that they died celebrating the gift of who they are. But we also thank God for so many people who risked their lives to save the hostages, for so many first responders and medics who saved lives; so many blood donors lining up to give blood, and many communities who are keeping vigil in memory of the dead. The news about our humanity which comes out from Orlando is not the victory of violence, but the triumph of love, hope, and courage that we all can say to the darkness of gun violence, terrorism and hate what we will differ especially to recommitting ourselves to love and holding on the finest values and virtues of our true humanity.

But I weep that in our world there are men and women who spend their time and resources planning on how to destroy the lives of other people. We weep that in some parts of the world that there are people who celebrate such massacres. It rends my heart asunder that such people who commit such heinous act will make such claim using the name of God. It gnaws at my liver that such people will find help for their poisonous passion through the laws of the land that allows them to bear arms. I pray that these gentle souls; these pure souls whose lives were caught midstream will find peace. What pain they bore as they died! What horrors they felt in their last moment! What did they think of our humanity? What did they think of our country? What did they think of the right to bear arms? What did they think of religion? Sure they did not have chance to process anything as they planned how to find safety. But we who are still alive here and who mourn their loss must answer these questions not through tears but through action because the blood of these innocent ones is crying to heaven.