White House personnel look back after lowering the flag on the roof of the White House to half staff following President Barack Obama's statement on Sunday regarding the overnight attack on an Orlando gay club, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
There is much that we do not yet know about the casual slaughter of at least 50 people in Sunday morning’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Why did the shooter, a 29-year-old American citizen, choose that day? Did he act alone? Did ISIS motivate him to turn murderer -- and if so, how did they do it?
And: Could he have been stopped?
These questions will tug at us tonight as we try to sleep and haunt us in the days ahead as the mourning over so unfathomably many dead breaks our hearts over and over.
But there are things we do know. Hard things, perhaps, to say at time when our understanding of the facts is still so fluid. But things worth saying.
These were gay people who were killed. Who were targeted. Whatever else it was, this was a hate crime targeted at a particular minority population, one that has been targeted before. Whose history in America has been marked by marginalization and demonization.
So we must ask: When will it stop being acceptable to demonize homosexuality by those who view it as sinful, or unnatural? Too often these views come from the pulpit and the podium, when the better message is one of love and acceptance.
Another thing we know already is that Sunday’s slaughter was made easier because the killer carried an assault rifle capable of firing bursts of bullets at inhuman speeds. It’s the same style rifle, especially designed as it is for mass murder, that was once restricted under federal law, at least until Congress shamefully allowed the assault rifle ban to expire in 2004.
This weapon has become notorious in our blood-soaked modern history of mass shootings and ought to be treated as the totem of death that it is. In a freakish sort of resume, it has been used in Newtown, where 20 tiny children (and six adults) were slaughtered; in the movie theater in Aurora; and in the ISIS-inspired killing in San Bernardino.
On Friday, America showed the world its very best face. In a formerly segregated city, tens of thousands of people of all races, creeds, colors and classes came together in a tremendously moving outpouring of love and brotherhood to honor the passing of Muhammad Ali. Then as most of America was sleeping, one of our own took his mission of death into a dance club and tore holes through hearts of more than 50 families.
These two tear-filled scenes -- the wet-eyed throngs in Louisville and the terror-stricken wailing of survivors in Orlando -- serve as avatars of the best and worst of America.
Now we must move forward through a blizzard of grief. Let us strive toward the example set in Louisville and away from the hate and death in Orlando.