O ur country was shocked and horrified on June 12 by the largest mass shooting to occur on American soil to date. Forty-nine innocent people were killed, and another 53 wounded, by one hate-filled man. We read the stories and watched the newscasts with disbelief, angered and saddened at the senseless destruction. We grieved for the families shattered by the tragedy, wishing we could do something to ease their pain.
Some did their best to help. Employees of a local Orlando Chic-fil-A, normally closed on Sundays, made hundreds of sandwiches and gallons of tea, and passed them out to workers trying to make sense of the mess at the Pulse nightclub. Others came and offered whatever aid they could. Tragedy often brings out the best in Americans, regardless of differences of opinion and life choices.
Once the dust had settled, many in authority began to point fingers, as usual, some in an effort to honestly shed light on why the heinous event occurred, but most with an eye toward pushing their own agendas.
It might be hatred of people of a certain lifestyle or religion, or control of the actions of their fellow citizens, or to gain sympathy for some cause. Various political organizations and religious groups were blamed, impotent solutions were proposed, and once again we were not joined as Americans facing a common enemy. Instead we were divided along religious, political, and social demarcation lines.
When that happens, the terrorists have won. When we begin to blame one another, when we impose unrealistic expectations on our fellow citizens, when we shout for reductions in our freedoms in the interest of the perception of safety, the terrorists have won. When we look to a government that is unwilling to damage the feelings of certain groups for fear of being politically incorrect. When instead it seeks to impose further sanctions on its own citizens, the very targets of these attacks. When it claims this is some sort of solution, the terrorists have won—and liberty has lost.
Freedom is a fickle thing. We all want to be free, but in order to enjoy our own liberty we must grant the same right to others. If we call ourselves a free society, yet withhold certain rights from certain groups because we disagree with them about something. It might be their lifestyle choices, or their religious beliefs, or their political affiliations, then we don’t really have freedom.
If one citizen in America lacks rights another citizen enjoys, neither is truly free. When we set ourselves above those with whom we disagree, we hang ourselves with the rope intended for them.
The problem is that we, as a nation and sometimes as individuals, face an enemy that despises our freedom while using it against us. The terrorist who has yet committed no acts of terrorism is as welcome here as the immigrant who wants nothing except to take advantage of the opportunities our country affords.
We can’t tell the difference between the two.
The most perplexing part of this whole situation is that we can’t accept the fact that our enemies hate us just because we have freedom. Hate is like that. The terrorist doesn’t want freedom, but instead of enjoying his own chains and leaving us alone, he must punish us for possession of our freedom.
This doesn’t make any sense to us, so we look for some other reason for his actions. However, hate is its own catalyst, and there isn’t any other reason for terrorism against freedom. None of us, no matter our race, religion, gender, or level of wealth, is safe from hate.
On 1 October 2015 a young man walked into Umpqua Community College in Oregon and started shooting people. He asked his victims if they were Christians. If they said yes he shot them in the head. If they said no he shot them in a leg. Obviously Christians were targeted for death.
The Orlando murderer chose the Pulse nightclub because he disagreed with the lifestyle choices of its clientele. His hate blinded him to the fact that a government narrow minded enough to deny those people their right to live as they chose would also deny him the freedom to choose his religion.
We all have freedom here in America, which makes us all targets.
Several months ago, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I wrote that although we all wanted to do something to help, “all we can do is mourn with Paris, and offer our condolences. And prepare.
For terrorism, France is practice. The United States is the big game.” We don’t have the option of sitting on the bench in this one.
The radical Islamic terrorists of ISIS will not stop until we are all either dead or enslaved to their freedom-hating political ideology. We can point fingers and surrender our freedoms until we are just like them, or we can stand together and fight to preserve the liberty they hate. We can defend our way of life, and refuse to accept their chains in place of our rights.
The choice is the same one Patrick Henry offered Virginia in 1775.
Liberty or death.
Email Kendal Hemphill at [email protected]