(Rich Galen, Mullings) – My first thought when I turned on my TV Sunday morning and found that the Orlando shooting had occurred in a gay nightclub was: They’re dead because they were gay.
I have a lot of gay friends. I tried to come up with words that would express my feelings for what they must have been going through.
I assume they were going through the same feelings I had – and will have again, I fear – when Jews are attacked in shops and restaurants. Those attacks occurred not because they were in the wrong random place at the wrong random time, but because they were in a place that Jews were known to frequent.
It is clear that the people at the Pulse nightclub were targeted because it was a place where gays were known to frequent.
You don’t have to be a member of a targeted group to have feelings of shock and sadness when that group is attacked, but if you are a member of a targeted group, it is that membership alone that sets you apart.
Christians have attacked Christians and Muslims have attacked Muslims because of differences in theocracy. Tribal atrocities in Africa have been well documented.
Tribal atrocities in Europe have led to two World Wars.
By noon Sunday, the shooter, Omar Mateen, had been identified as the American-born son of Afghan parents. Mateen apparently called 9-1-1 to claim fidelity with ISIS just before he began shooting, perhaps to make certain he got appropriate credit for his crime.
Of course, the political aspects of the slaughter began almost immediately. I will not repeat them here because the families of those killed have not yet all been notified.
At a minimum, we can wait for that before pointing fingers and blaming one another.
Meanwhile, we can think about and thank the men and women of the police services who went into that nightclub not knowing what they would find. They didn’t know if there was one shooter or many. Didn’t know if the shooter was willing to die or would surrender. Didn’t know how many people had been injured or killed – but I’d bet a total of more than 100 would not have been their first guess.
Let’s also give thanks to those customers, friends, and others whom we’ve seen in video after video carrying the wounded to safety.
They, too, ran toward the danger.
President Obama spoke just before 2 pm – about 12 hours after the attack began. He’s good at this sort of thing; unfortunately, he has had a lot of practice.
He touched lightly, I thought, on the issue of gun control. Resigned in tone rather than angry as he has been other times.
He spoke about the stories we will learn of those who were killed; stories that stopped suddenly in mid-sentence.
We will also learn more about the killer. We know that he worked for a security company for almost seven years and was qualified to carry a firearm even though he had been a minor player in at least two FBI investigations.
We will hear from his colleagues and friends. We will learn, perhaps, of his descent into fanaticism, and whether he shared that downward spiral with any of them.
The details will be filled in. Most questions will be answered. We may never know what pushed Mateen over the edge of accepted human behavior but we do know this: He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.
But, you can’t say: It wasn’t my people. You can’t say I’m not Muslim so none of my people didn’t do the shooting and, I’m not gay, so none of my people were the victims.
Martin Niemöller famously wrote, as the Nazis took over control of Germany:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – And there was no one left to speak for me.
Mr. Galen is a veteran political strategist and communications consultant. He blogs at www.Mullings.com.