An accidental glance at the TV behind the counter where a half dozen guys sit on the diner’s retro-styled stools eating mid-Sunday morning breakfasts of You-Name-It and coffee, breaks news of a shooting in Orlando with many casualties.
Fifty dead, apparently; another 53 injured. Shooter’s name is Omar, something. Didn’t catch the last name but I could see in the graphic it wasn’t “Smith” or “Jones” so I knew what was coming.
This is America. We mourn the dead and commence the swirl. Not necessarily in that order.
It took only a few hours. Donald Trump was not the first of the presidential candidates to take to Twitter, but he was the first to get political.
“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness and vigilance. We must be smart,” Trump typed, to hype the Right.
Shocking. The Donald turned the tragedy to him. In an equally stunning development, Hillary Clinton set out fast after the weapons.
“We need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.”
Clinton was joining, not leading, the gun posse. President Obama had already pronounced them the problem.
“This massacre is a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a night club.”
Over the next few hours, Trump chided Obama and Clinton for refusing to acknowledge radical Islam, saying he should resign in disgrace and she should quit the race, if they can’t. Clinton blinked. Obama’s still wide-eyed.
The Left called it a crime of hate against the LGBT community.
Obviously! Some suggested the hate was fueled by fuming over Who Can Pee Where in Charlotte and Raleigh’s HB-2. Seriously?
The Right called it an “Attack on All Americans.” True. But if the nightclub had been a church and the dead and wounded evangelical Christians, would their view of whom was attacked be a bit more specific?
The Islamic State got into the act, calling the shooter “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America” and claiming responsibility.
What terrorists say, we now take to the bank. How different our world might be if we’d taken them at their word fifteen years ago.
And the shooter was a violent creep, according to his ex-wife. And had been interviewed by the FBI twice, apparently. And yet was able to pass a background check And buy the Sig Sauer MCX rifle. And... And... And...
That’s the word we find toughest to use in these tragedies: And.
Each side is so certain in their singularity of cause. Polemic politicians and their parroting publics. There is so much power in polarization.
The fact is the killer was a bad guy filled with long-festering hatred AND a fervor for violence AND he found religious favor for his fevered prejudices AND had a too-easy time getting his hands on weapons that can too-easily murder en masse.
AND, according to Florida’s gun law pertaining to bars, no one among the massacred could have carried a weapon of their own to try to stop him.
No matter what had gotten him started.
Keith Larson can be heard weekdays 9 a.m.-noon on WBT AM/FM